The next sport where transgender individuals are expected to toss a gender-bending wrench into the works is weightlifting. As Pink News in the UK reports, a New Zealand man who identifies as a woman, Laurel Hubbard, has been cleared by the International Olympic Committee to represent his country in a major upcoming event. Unlike some other sports where we’ve seen this happening, the world of weightlifting should really put this theory to the test.
Laurel Hubbard has been named to the New Zealand women’s weightlifting team for the Commonwealth Games, sparking controversy in the sport.
Hubbard, 39, will be the first transgender sportsperson to represent New Zealand.
After being cleared by the International Olympic Committee and Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand (OWNZ) last week, it was confirmed that she would be one of 12 athletes in the Kiwi home state’s weightlifting team on the Gold Coast.
Hubbard will compete in the women’s +90kg category, introduced by the International Weightlifting Federation at the start of the year.
The article includes quotes from interviews with a few people involved in regulating the sport who are dancing around the obvious in an attempt not to bring down the forces of political correctness on their heads. But we’re not talking about sprinting or cycling or tennis here. This is world class weightlifting. Don’t you think that the guys have something of an advantage here? It’s true that the IOC is forcing men “identifying” as women who haven’t had sex-change surgery to suppress their testosterone levels below a certain point. And no doubt that will slow them down a bit, but still…
So, does that mean that they should just get the medal ready to hand over to Hubbard right now? Actually, probably not. While it’s obviously unfair to allow males of relatively equal skill levels and qualifications to compete against women in physical sports, a sufficiently mediocre male could still readily be beaten by world-class female athletes. Take, for example, the first “transgender female pro cyclist” we covered here earlier this year.
In the 2017 Colorado Classic, Jillian Bearden (formerly Joseph) entered the women’s division. But prior to that, he had no professional competition record and had been primarily practicing as a complete amateur. Bearden finished in 55th place with a time of 1:38:12. You might say that proves that having men compete isn’t such a bad thing, but consider his total lack of experience. That wasn’t a bad finish for somebody with no real competitive record since the winner came in at 1:33:00. Bearden came out of complete obscurity into a race that lasted more than an hour and a half and still lost by barely five minutes to a world class women’s cyclist.
Now let’s consider how Laurel Hubbard will do in the Commonwealth Games. Granted, that’s limited to Australia and New Zeland rather than the entire planet, but it’s still a pretty crowded field. Hubbard was a national junior record-holder in his youth, but doesn’t list many accomplishments since then. Now he’s won the women’s division in the Australian Open earlier this year in the +90kG maximum weight class, snatch, clean and jerk, lifting 123 kilos in the snatch and 145 kilos in the clean and jerk.. (I can hear some of you juveniles snickering in the back row, so just stop it.) Place that in context with world-class weightlifters who are actually females and you’ll find that the current Olympic record is 151 kilos in the snatch and 187 in the clean and jerk, the latter held by Zhou Lulu of China. That’s a fairly massive chasm beyond what Hubbard has achieved so far. Then again, the men’s heavyweight record in that event stands at 216 and 263 so maybe he’s better off competing with the girls.
This goes back to the tennis question we’ve batted around here previously (pun intended). Yes, Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs when she was the number one or two female player in the world and Riggs was a panting, out of breath guy a few years short of drawing Social Security. And today, Venus Williams would slaughter more than 99.9% of the men in this country on the tennis court. But if you put her across the net from Roger Federer she’d probably return possibly one serve out of ten. Maybe twenty.
The point is, Hubbard may not win the entire tournament if they have a couple women of true Olympic caliber competing. But it’s still grossly unfair to all of the actual women who are starting out and trying to make their way up the ladder. We’ll check back with the weightlifters after the tournament concludes.