Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will not hold an ‘advantage’ over her competitors in this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo, an expert has claimed.
Hubbard, 43, will become the first transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics and had previously competed in the men’s category prior to her transition in 2013.
The New Zealander will be competing in the women's super heavyweight category in Tokyo, where she will be looking to reach a podium finish.
Joanna Harper, who is an expert in transgender sport and a researcher at the Loughborough University, has now claimed that Hubbard will not hold an advantage over her competitors.
There is insufficient research on whether transgender women are stronger than other women of a similar build, while Hubbard’s personal best does not match that of her competitors.
Hubbard has achieved a combined total of 285kg in the snatch, clean and jerk – the fourth highest of the 14 qualifiers for the event – while the Chinese weightlifter Li Wenwen has a significantly higher total of 335kg.
Harper told an interview with the Mail : “It is certainly true that on average trans women are stronger than cis women but most of the power sports are divided into weight class and it is not clear that on a pound for pound basis trans women are stronger.
“Even if there is an advantage, is it an overwhelming advantage? Certainly not, because there is the one Chinese athlete who will easily outlift Laurel Hubbard.
“The Chinese woman who leads the world is vastly stronger than Hubbard.
“All these women are big and strong. In terms of size and strength she is not an outlier among this group of women.
“Laurel Hubbard is not going to win. She has an outside shot at a medal. Is it exactly a level competition? Maybe not, but there is no advantage that Hubbard has that overwhelms some of the advantages some of the other women have.”
Hubbard has also won the respect and support of her Australian Olympics rival, Charisma Amoe-Tarrant, who has said: “I have so much respect for her and wish her and the other lifters the best and hope we can all come together and enjoy the Olympics.
“Because this Olympics right now is quite different compared to others. I’ve competed with her previously and always had good chats with her, I just wish her well.”
Hubbard has also been backed by politicians from across the spectrum in New Zealand.
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The nation’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said: “All parties here have simply followed the rules.
“That’s the case for Laurel but also the team in New Zealand, they have followed the rules.”
Grant Robinson, New Zealand’s sport minister, added: “She deserves to be there and we’ll be supporting her.”
Judith Collins, who leads the Conservative opposition in the Australasian nation also backed Hubbard as she “is who she is and she is trying to do her best.
“I’d hate to see any bullying or any horrible comments about Laurel because she’s doing what she wants to do.”
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