GOLD COAST, Australia (Reuters) - Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard withdrew injured during the Commonwealth Games tournament on Monday as an overwhelmed Feagaiga Stowers of Samoa claimed gold in the 90+kg division.
The New Zealander, whose participation was criticised as “unfair” by the Samoan team, lifted 120kg in the snatch but injured her arm on a failed third attempt after raising the weight dramatically to 132kg.
Although having taken a 7kg lead over teenager Stowers into the clean and jerk, Hubbard took no further part.
Stowers, whose coach had slammed Hubbard’s entry as an “unfair advantage” in the lead-up, claimed gold with a combined total of 253kg, ahead of Nauruan Charisma Amoe-Tarrant (243) and England’s Emily Campbell (242).
An emotional Stowers declined to speak directly to reporters but a Samoa team official said the lifter felt “shocked and so happy” that Hubbard had withdrawn.
“She felt it unfair for her to compete (with Hubbard). I hope everyone noticed,” the official told reporters next to 17-year-old Stowers.
“She never thought that she is going to come and win the gold medal. All we were aiming for was silver or the bronze medal.
“It’s unfair to (Stowers) as a woman... We know we can’t beat (Hubbard)... but we wanted her to do a good result and get a good ranking.”
When she competed, Hubbard was warmly received by a packed crowd at the Carrara Sports and Leisure Centre.
The 40-year-old New Zealander, who lived as Gavin Hubbard until four years ago and competed at national level as a man, finished second in the women’s super-heavyweights behind American Sarah Robles at the world championships in December.
“It seems likely that I have ruptured a ligament,” she told reporters.
“Until we have further scanning, we won’t know the details.
“I have no regrets about the attempts I made, because I believe that to be true to sport you really have to try to be the best that you can, and I’m happy with the decisions that were made.”
Earlier on Monday, Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive David Grevemberg called on Hubbard’s nation to support the lifter.
“I hope all New Zealanders... would get behind one of their athletes that has gone through the pathway to achieve greatness, and within the rules of the sport,” Grevemberg told reporters.
Hubbard said she was nervous about the crowd at the Carrara venue before the event but described their reception as “absolutely magnificent”.
“I feel just like (it was) a big embrace. I wanted to give them something that reflected the best I could do and my only real regret today was that I was unable to show them,” she said.
“It wouldn’t be true if I said I wasn’t unhappy at the moment but the nature of sport is that things don’t always go your way. It is what it is.
“I think you have to be true to yourself and I hope in this case, that’s what I have done.”
Hubbard complies with regulations on transgender athletes laid down by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), whose guidelines are followed by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF).
There was warm applause from the venue’s crowd when Hubbard lifted but some spectators said she should not have been allowed to compete as a woman.
“I think it’s completely unfair on the other athletes. She was a champion weightlifter as a man,” said Melbourne resident Paul Shannon outside the venue.
“The rules are wrong.”
Editing by John O'Brien