Even after being on the receiving end of abuse on social media, Laurel Hubbard, a transgender weightlifter from New Zealand, won silver at the IWF World Weightlifting Championships.
According to New Zealand news website Stuff.co.nz, Hubbard, 39, became the first New Zealander to medal at the world championships in the event’s history, which dates back to 1891, when she finished second behind American Sarah Robles in the super-heavyweights division Tuesday in Anaheim, California. Hubbard lifted a total of 606 pounds while Robles, the first American to win a worlds title since 1994, lifted 626 pounds.
Hubbard refused interviews after the event, continuing a public silence that began when she started competing in international weightlifting events early last year. Hubbard, who lived the first 35 years of her life as Gavin Hubbard, previously competed at the national level in New Zealand.
Many coaches were uneasy about her presence at the event. Tim Swords, Robles’ coach, said he was congratulated by “multiple coaching staffs.”
“Nobody wanted (Hubbard) to win,” Swords said.
Hubbard, who was politely applauded by a small crowd at the Anaheim Convention Center, has been one of the talking points of the week in California. The 39-year-old, who lived as a man for 35 years, was abused on social media before the championships, and many coaches were clearly unhappy with her presence.
When Swords posted a photo of Hubbard on social media in early November, with an innocuous comment about her presence at the world championships, it led to a number of abusive posts by others.
“There was no controversy between the lifters about her presence here, but there was between some of the coaching staffs,” said Swords. “When Sarah beat Hubbard in the snatch we were congratulated by multiple coaching staffs. Nobody wanted her to win.”
Another coach, Mohamed Hosnytaha of Egypt, bluntly said he did not agree with Hubbard participating:
Mohamed Hosnytaha, coach of the Egyptian bronze medallist Shaimaa Khalaf, and of Egypt’s national team, said, “We didn’t agree with it, with somebody who was a man for so long, who has different hormones, different feelings. It is not fair and we asked the IWF how come she can compete after only one year of showing her (testosterone) levels. But everybody was friendly with her in the competition.”
Hubbard met regulations for transgender athletes set by the International Olympic Committee. Those regulations are also followed by the International Weightlifting Federation, so Hubbard was permitted to compete.
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