Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard has announced she will retire after making Olympics history as the first openly transgender woman to compete in the Games.
The 43-year-old, who transitioned in 2012, competed in the 87kg+ category but failed to record a single valid ‘snatch’ lift in Tokyo. She crashed out of the Olympics after making history as the first trans woman to compete in a solo event.
She overbalanced on her opening weight of 120kg, taking the bar behind her shoulders. Hubbard’s second effort of 125kg was ruled invalid on a majority decision by the referees. The third attempt was almost a repeat of the first, ruling Hubbard out of medal contention.
Her participation also sparked a firestorm of debate about transgender participation in women’s sport.
The ‘intensely private’ Hubbard said she was now ready to step away from the spotlight.
“Age has caught up with me. In fact, if we’re being honest it probably caught up with me some time ago,” said Hubbard, who at 43 was more than 20 years older than most of her rivals.
“My involvement in sport is probably due, if nothing else, to heroic amounts of anti-inflammatories, and it’s probably time for me to start thinking about hanging up the boots and concentrating on other things in my life.”
Hubbard praised the IOC for showing “moral leadership” in adopting inclusive polices that allowed her to participate at the Games.
“I’m not sure that a role model is something I could ever aspire to be, instead I hope that just by being I can provide some sense of encouragement,” she told reporters.
Critics argue athletes such as Hubbard, who was born male and transitioned to female in her 30s, have physical benefits hardwired into their bodies during their formative years.
The IOC, under guidelines adopted in 2003, only allowed transgender participation for athletes who had undergone gender reassignment surgery but dropped the requirement in 2015, instead of focusing on lower testosterone levels.
The governing body is set to release new guidelines on the issue after the Tokyo Games are completed.
Hubbard said she welcomed the discussion about the issues her debut had highlighted.
“I’m certain that a conversation needs to be had,” she said.
“Although we have rules at the moment, they will no doubt change and evolve as more is known about transgender athletes and what that means for participation in sport.”