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The First Olympic Trans Athlete || The Weight Of The World

It is the competition that has received the most attention to date in Tokyo. For the first and so far only time, not all journalists who wanted to be there were granted access, including the author of this text. So I watch on one of the screens in the press center how the most controversial competitor in Olympic history (Daily Mail Australia) enters the stage of the Tokyo Forum for the first time at 8.30pm local time, where the weightlifting competition is taking place in the over 87 kilogram class.

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Laurel Hubbard took long and deep breaths before she approaches the weight of 120 kilograms, which is distributed on four red iron discs of 25 kilograms each and mounted on the 20-kilogram dumbbell. And less than 15 minutes later, the competition for the 146.7 kilogram woman (that's what the official starting list says, size matters in this sport) has already ended. DNF is now behind their name on the scoreboard, "did not finish" . None of her three attempts at snapping (lifting the dumbbell up in one move) were valid, so she was no longer allowed to push (lifting the dumbbell up on the chest with interruptions). Is that good or bad for their cause? And what is that anyway, your business?

When Laurel Hubbard was born on February 9, 1978 in Auckland, New Zealand, her gender was determined to be male and she was given the name Gavin. But she realizes early on that it doesn't go together, her masculine name and the person she is. She starts lifting weights to become more manly. "Sadly, that was not the case," she says much later in an interview about this time. But she has a talent for sport; At the age of 20, she set a New Zealand junior record in the weight class over 105 kilograms - 300 kilograms brings her to the high-end with raging and thrusting. She continues to play sport until she is 23, then stops trying to become the man she is not. In 2012 she underwent gender reassignment surgery.

The association wanted to exclude them

But weightlifting is still her sport; after a twelve-year hiatus, she takes him on again. But this time as a woman. Now she, who only competed nationally as Gavin, is internationally competitive. "The world has changed," she told the Australian Daily Mail at the time , "and I think I can handle anything - the pressures of a world that wasn't really made for people like me." After proving that her testosterone level was below a set limit for twelve months, she wins silver at the 2017 World Cup.

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The Australian Weightlifting Association had previously tried unsuccessfully to exclude Laurel Hubbard from the competition. Its boss suspected unfair competition despite the testosterone limit value: "If you were once a man and you have lifted certain weights and suddenly you become a woman, your psyche simply knows that you can lift such weights."

"I am who I am"

About this and other hostilities, Hubbard, who was described as extremely shy by people who know her well, said at the time: "You'd have to be a robot not to be touched by it. But I can't control what other people think. what you feel, what you believe in and I won't try. It's not my job to tell you what to think, feel, believe. All I can do is lift weights so good I can, and then let everything happen that happens."

After winning the 2019 Oceania Championship in Apia, the capital of Samoa, Laurel Hubbard is qualified for the Tokyo Olympics - as the first trans athlete ever. And at 43, she would also be the oldest participant to ever win a weightlifting medal.

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Three days before the competition, the IOC in Tokyo is holding a special discussion round about trans people and sport. Laurel Hubbard does not take part, her case has long since reached global dimensions. She, who told New Zealand television in 2017, "I am who I am and I am not here to change the world," is becoming a central figure in the global discourse on identity politics. In Tokyo, the Olympic Committee in her home country shields her from the public. Its spokeswoman says: "Role models make a difference, be it when it comes to female executives or, as in this case, transgender athletes. When you see someone on the world stage who is like you and is successful, that is a wonderful opportunity to find a way for yourself.

Science is divided on whether Laurel Hubbard and other trans athletes have an advantage over their always female competitors and how big it might be. A strength advantage could be significantly reduced by the mental strain or previously unexplored consequences of changing sex.

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The IOC pushes - as so often with controversial issues - the responsibility of the divisions to. A week before the start of the Games, IOC President Thomas Bach says: "There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this question. It is a question that differs from sport to sport." And Richard Budgett, IOC director of medicine and science, said, "There are no IOC rules about transgender participation, it depends on every trade association. Laurel Hubbard is a woman and follows the rules of her association. We should run hers Respect the courage and tenacity with which she qualified for the Games. " For the IOC, more inclusion is fundamental, while fairness is a top priority. What the Olympians want to do when both are not available at the same time,

A useful hype for weightlifting

For the International Weightlifting Federation, the Laurel Hubbard hype might come at just the right time. After countless official scandals and doping violations, the traditional sport is under closer observation by the IOC; the violation from the Olympic program threatens. To be at the forefront of something as modern as inclusion and gender equality could become even more important in the struggle for survival. The association's press spokesman said at the Olympic round table: "We stand by inclusion because weightlifting is a universally accessible and useful sport."

But how useful was Laurel Hubbard's performance on the competitive stage? You could see a person who was only able to walk to his sports equipment with difficulty. Was it the force of global attention that made your steps unsure? Or has this brutal sport simply ruined your body over many years of hard training? The concern of some athletes that someone could take them for medals with unfair advantages was completely unfounded. In truth, Laurel Hubbard, who only managed 125 pounds on the second attempt but couldn't hold it long enough, was not competitive. Wenwen Li from China won the weightlifting of women in the 87 kg class. She lifted 320 kg.

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And Hubbard himself? In a short statement, she admitted that in sporting terms she did not live up to the demands that she made of herself and that her country had expected of her. She thanked her very politely for everyone's interest in her appearance and the support on the long journey there, especially with her Olympic committee. "You have been with me through this difficult time - I know that my participation in the Games was not entirely without controversy." With this understatement of the year, she left the big stage she had wanted to be on. Maybe without really being able to imagine what to expect there.

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