It’s a true sign of the times that these Commonwealth games featured transgender weightlifter, Laurel Hubbard, competing for gold. Conversations about the woman who used to be a man’s place in the New Zealand women’s weightlifting team have varied from the comical to the controversial. But regardless of your politics on the issue, you have to feel bad for anyone who suffers a career-ending injury in the manner Laurel did.
Laurel, who was born Gavin – and stayed Gavin until sometime in her 30s – was heading for Commonwealth Gold when tragedy struck. She’d already blown away the competition with her first lift. She punched a 120-kilogram effort when her nearest competitor couldn’t even get near 115 kilos. Then for some bizarre reason, after failing at 127 kilos, Laurel went for 132. This effort wasn’t just a failure; it was a career-ender.
The bar slipped behind her back and the ligaments in her elbow couldn’t take the strain. They snapped. Considering comments made by other competitors and coaches, notably Samoan coach, Jerry Wallwork, have brought the issue of Hubbard’s gender to media attention, it can’t just be glossed over. This is a sport that by its very definition relies on strength, and as Secretary-General of the Oceania Weightlifting Institute said, Hubbard is on record as lifting over 330 kilograms as a man so the strength is there.
The thing is, this is 2018, and if there’s no special division for transgender athletes , and a guy or a girl or a whatever is prepared to go through everything they must do to be recognized as a member of the opposite gender, then fair play to them. On the flipside of that though, it is a little bit like challenging your little sister or the girls in the office to an arm-wrestle.
Sure, you’ll probably win, but that victory is a little bit tainted and you can’t pretend it’s not. The playing fields aren’t level. Fortunately, by all accounts, Laurel Hubbard is a mild-mannered and humble person who wouldn’t have been likely to gloat had she taken the gold.