Transgender lifter storms Masters GamesSave
By Grant Chapman
Safe to say, few World Masters Games competitors will have polarised opinion as much as Kiwi weightlifting sensation Laurel Hubbard.
Born as Gavin Hubbard, son of former Auckland mayor Dick Hubbard, she has recently transitioned to become a woman and continues to push her claims for Commonwealth Games selection, despite divided opinion within the sport.
Today, she shattered world masters records in the 30-39 (90kg-plus) division, snatching 131kg and achieving 149kg in the clean and jerk for a total of 280kg.
All three results bettered her own NZ national records, set in Melbourne earlier this year, and the snatch would have been a Commonwealth mark, but not claimable under World Masters Games conditions.
Her performances left the audience at AUT Millennium in awe, but also, fair to say, with a degree of unease. While Hubbard had plenty of fans in the crowd, she also had more than a few doubters.
She weighed in at 132kg and towered above her opposition, entering both disciplines long after her nearest rival had completed her lifts. Contesting a lighter division, German Kathleen Schoppe lagged 41kg behind in the snatch and 34kg in the clean and jerk.
Hubbard succeeded with all six of her lifts and clasped her hands in a heart symbol over her chest after each, but some of her heavier lifts left her barely enough energy to leave the stage.
Given the intense public scrutiny over her inclusion, she was still not ready to speak publicly, but Olympic Weightlifting NZ high performance manager Simon Kent described Hubbard's performance as "magnificent".
"This is such a new issue for society to have a conversation about," said Kent, of the transgender question. "It really challenges how people respond to it - it's not something that is openly discussed and talked about.
"As an organisation, we're tremendously proud of what Laurel's doing. She's tremendously courageous to do what she's doing."
Hubbard has satisfied every standard set by international sporting governance, but has undoubtedly benefited from having trained and competed in a man's body for the vast majority of her life.
An interested spectator during the early rounds of the competition was Commonwealth Games bronze medallist and Olympian Tracy Lambrechts, who has had to shed 15kg and drop down a weight division to continue her international career.
"Tracy's been magnificent," said Kent. "We see this as a great opportunity for her in the new weight class and she's really embraced that opportunity.
"I think she's made a wonderful adjustment, she's training well and her head space is good. Going forward, she has a very good chance to repeat [her Commonwealth Games medal] and even do better at Gold Coast in 2018."
Hubbard hit the headlines last month when New Zealand weightlifting selected the transgender athlete for an international competition - believed to be a first in New Zealand sport.
The world weightlifting body has followed the guidelines from the International Olympic Committee's consensus meeting on sex reassignment and hyperandrogenism, issued in November 2015.
Among the recommendations it states that those who transition from male to female "must demonstrate that her total testosterone level in serum has been below 10 [nanomoles per litre] for at least 12 months prior to her first competition".
Garry Marshall, president of the Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand, has previously said Hubbard had been supplying the results of her monthly tests for more than two years.