With the Tokyo Olympics set to get underway on Friday, the major talking point of a competition that is unprecedented in a number of ways has been Laurel Hubbard.
Hubbard is set to make history as she becomes the first transgender athlete to compete in the Olympic Games.
The 43-year-old New Zealand weightlifter will be participating in the +87 kilos category, the highest female weight classification.
Laurel, whose original name was Gavin, completed her conversion at the age of 35, and has passed the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) criteria of eligibility in women’s weightlifting, which was introduced in 2015.
As part of this criteria, each woman must have testosterone levels below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months prior to the start of the competition.
Hubbard will have a strong chance of competing for the podium in Tokyo, at least for the bronze medal, and her participation has has a mixed reception, such as criticism from one one of her opponents, Anna Van Bellinghem.
“This particular situation is unfair to the sport and to the athletes,” Van Bellinghem said.
Van Bellinghem’s viewpoint was echoed by Constantino Iglesias, the president of the Spanish federation, in an interview with MARCA.
“Honestly, it’s not fair at all,” Iglesias said.
“You have to accept the IOC’s rules, but it is a topic that is not resolved and must be studied in the future.
“I have seen [Hubbard] when she was competing against men.
“She certainly wouldn’t have qualified for the male competition, but she now has the chance to win a medal.”
However, Hubbard has also been praised by many, with Spanish Olympian Josue Brachi stating that her participation will help to overcome the stigma of transgender people in weightlifting.
“[Hubbard’s] participation will be good because if she competes it is because she can,” Brachi said.
“She will manage to change the notion of this sport having always been considered a male sport, of brutes, and now she will remove many stigmas that were associated with it.”
Spanish weightlifter Alba Sanchez doesn’t believe that Hubbard does carry an unfair advantage over her other competitors.
“I don’t like how people are saying that [Hubbard] is a man and that she has more strength and must compete with men,” Sanchez said.
“That is not confirmed as true.
“From what I have read, if a man who is now a woman wants to compete with women, an analysis should be done to check that the hormones are feminine.
“The idea that they can’t compete because they are stronger than a woman due to nature is false because the opposite is demonstrated in the hormonal analysis.”