- The Washington Times
Monday, August 2, 2021

New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard made history Monday by becoming the first openly transgender athlete to compete in the women’s Olympics based on gender identity, but her bid to win a medal fell flat.

Hubbard, 43, did not finish after failing to lift successfully in her three tries in the women’s super-heavyweight +87kg category, the only one of the 11 athletes who failed to complete a lift in the competition at Tokyo International Forum.

The competition was won by China’s Li Wenwen, who set three Olympic records with her lifts, followed by silver medalist Emily Jane Campbell of Great Britain and U.S. lifter Sarah Elizabeth Robles, who took bronze.

The 21-year-old Chinese athlete “appeared to lift with ease 140kg in the snatch and 180kg in the clean and jerk, setting records in both,” the Tokyo Olympicsreported.

“She claimed a third with her amassed score of 320 points, which was just outside her world record of 335,” said the press release. “After the judges approved her final lift, an elated Li dashed to bring her coach on stage and they both did a bow at the Tokyo International Forum.”

Hubbard, who drew international attention for qualifying in the women’s category after transitioning at age 34, said afterward that she was “overwhelmed” by the moment.

“If anything, I think I was just overwhelmed by the excitement of being on the Olympic platform,” she told Sky Sport, as reported by the New Zealand Herald. “It’s such a truly special place, not just for weightlifters. I think for any Olympic athlete, competing at this level just unlocks a certain amount of adrenaline and I think I might have just over-cooked it slightly tonight.”

She said she was “so grateful” that she was able to compete after breaking her arm in 2018 during the Commonwealth Games, saying, “I never thought I would compete again.”

“Consequently, everything that’s happened since then has just been a bonus and I think that’s why it’s hard for me to be too disappointed tonight,” Hubbard said.

Her appearance stoked the heated debate over male-to-female transgender participation in women’s sports, an issue that the International Olympic Committee plans to revisit after the Tokyo Olympic Games, which conclude Aug. 8.

Hubbard also thanked Olympic organizers, saying she was “not entirely unaware of the controversy surrounding my participation.”

The Tokyo Olympics are the first Games to be held with openly transgender athletes. Also competing is longtime Canadian women’s soccer player Quinn, who announced she was transgender and nonbinary last year but continues to play on the women’s team.

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