Laurel Hubbard is favoured to win gold at the Commonwealth Games. (Supplied: Linda Brothers/IWF)
One of the most controversial moments of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games will come when Laurel Hubbard, the transgender weightlifter from New Zealand, takes to the stage in the women’s +90 kilogram category.
- Samoan head coach opposes Hubbard competing at Games
- Oceania weightlifting chief says Hubbard has followed all rules
- The New Zealander is to compete on Monday
Since Hubbard became eligible to compete in international events at the start of last year, she has polarised views in the weightlifting community, particularly in the Pacific.
Head coach of the Samoan team Jerry Wallwork remains firmly opposed to Hubbard competing at the Games.
“A man is a man and a woman is a woman and I know a lot of changes have gone through, but in the past Laurel Hubbard used to be a male champion weightlifter,” he said.
Secretary-general of the Oceania Weightlifting Institute Paul Coffa takes a much more conciliatory line.
“She’s a lovely girl, she spent a few weeks with us at the institute,” he said.
“It is a very sensitive question. The fact is the Government of NZ has given her a passport for a female.
“She’s done everything according to the IOC rules and she’s proven that she’s a woman.”
While those are the facts, Wallwork still struggles with the idea of Hubbard competing alongside his women lifters.
“The strength is still there and I think it’s very unfair, and for all females it’s unfair,” he said.
“The situation may have been accepted by the IOC, but that won’t stop us from protesting, regardless of whether it’s against one of our lifters or not.
“It’s just very unfair.”
Hubbard unbeatable, says Oceania coach
But there will be no protest from Coffa, even though he concedes that none of the Pacific lifters can defeat Hubbard.
“As a man, Hubbard lifted 330 kilos, the strength is there,” he said.
“She will win the gold medal, nobody will beat her at these Games, no one.
“You can’t stop criticism, but I see it differently, she’s done what she’s required to do, so give her a chance and let her continue.”
The New Zealand weightlifting team arrived for the Commonwealth Games without Hubbard, who opted to leave her arrival to the last minute, and she has already declined to give any media interviews before her event.
New Zealand high performance director Simon Kent described Hubbard as “an introverted character”.
“Laurel is Laurel. We want to keep things as normal as we can,” he said.
“She is very comfortable with who she is and she is participating in a sport she loves.
“At 40 years of age, this is her last chance to compete on this sort of stage.”
Adding to the controversy, Hubbard may have a Commonwealth record in her sights, one that is currently held by Samoa’s Olympic silver medallist, Ele Opeloge.
Laurel Hubbard won a silver medal at the world championships last year. (Supplied: Elieko/IWF)