The issue of trans athletes in sport has again hit the headlines after controversial weightlifter Laurel Hubbard was named as New Zealand’s ‘sportswoman of the year’ by one university – and some fans aren’t buying it.
The University of Otago bestowed the honor on trans athlete Hubbard, becoming the first such sports star to receive the award in its 113-year history and comes after Hubbard became the first openly-trans competitor to compete in a solo event at the Olympic Games in Tokyo this past summer.
However, despite Hubbard, 43, being unsuccessful in her Olympic bid, she has been hailed by the New Zealand university for her impact on sport – despite being outshined at the Olympics by compatriot Lisa Carrington who won three golds in Japan to become the country’s most successful Olympian in history.
Nonetheless Hubbard, who ignited a debate as to the fairness of having athletes who were born male competing against women, gratefully accepted the award and thanked Otago University for the nod.
“It is not possible for athletes to complete at the Olympic level without the encouragement and aroha of friends, family and supporters,” said Hubbard.
“This award belongs to everyone who has been part of my Olympic journey.”
Hubbard, who transitioned to female in 2012, was granted permission to compete in the Olympics thanks to a newly-implemented rule which allows trans women to take part so long as their testosterone levels are below a certain level. Hubbard had previously competed in weightlifting competitions as a male.
“I see the Olympic Games as a global celebration of our hopes, ideals and values and I would like to thank the IOC for its commitment to making sport inclusive and accessible,” Hubbard said in a statement after being granted permission to participate in the Olympics.
“I’m not here to change the world, I just want to be me and do what I do.”
However, not everyone sees it the same way. Hubbard’s participation in Tokyo was seen by some as a line in the sand when it comes to having athlete born biologically male in competition against naturally born women – but the issue once again raising its head in the wake of Hubbard’s recognition from the University of Otago.
This is Lisa Carrington. She is a New Zealand canoeist. She won three gold medals at Tokyo 2020 and became NZ’s most successful Olympian ever. pic.twitter.com/lP4O8IztRt
— Emma Hilton (@FondOfBeetles) October 2, 2021
“The University of Otago names Hubbard as sportswoman of the year,” read one reaction online. “I am sorry that – once again – women are being displaced. This is outrageous and it needs to stop.
“Is this a joke?” said another. “Even (satirical newspaper) The Babylon Bee would struggle for content this comically insane.”
“This is Lisa Carrington,” wrote a third of the country’s all-conquering canoeist. “She is a New Zealand canoeist. She won three gold medals at Tokyo 2020 and became NZ’s most successful Olympian ever.”