Trans athlete Laurel Hubbard competing at Olympics is a ‘joke’, says rival

Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand competes in the Women’s +90kg Final during the Weightlifting on day five of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. (Getty/ Scott Barbour)

The rival of weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, who is set to make history as one of the first out trans athletes to compete in the Olympics, is griping about her being allowed to compete.

While Hubbard has not been officially announced for the New Zealand team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, she is likely to be given a spot in the women’s super heavyweight category.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) revised qualifying rules, reducing the number of the previous competition events required from six to four, allowing Hubbard to compete.

But one of her rivals, Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen, has declared that she thinks Hubbard’s eligibility is “like a bad joke”.

Speaking to the Olympics news website insidethegames, Vanbellinghen insisted she “fully supports” trans folk and prefaced her comments: “What I’m about to say doesn’t come from a place of rejection of this athlete’s identity.”

However, she went on to admit that she thought Hubbard’s inclusion in the sport was “at the expense of others”.

She added: “Anyone that has trained weightlifting at a high level knows this to be true in their bones: this particular situation is unfair to the sport and to the athletes.”

The International Olympic Committee has allowed trans athletes like Laurel Hubbard to compete since 2015

Despite the current backlash, the recent rule change that will allow Laurel Hubbard to compete in Tokyo has nothing to do with her gender identity and is simply a tweak to the number of previous competitions required to qualify.

Guidelines from the International Olympic Committee on trans athletes have been in place since 2015, and state that trans women can compete as long as their testosterone levels in serum were below 10 nanomoles per litre for one year.

Alongside Hubbard, two more trans athletes are hoping to make history in Tokyo this summer: BMX freestyle rider Chelsea Wolfe of the US and Brazilian volleyball player Tifanny Abreu.