Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard has been named sportswoman of year by the University of Otago. The university, which is based in Dunedin on the South Island of New Zealand, gave Hubbard the honour at the Blues awards on Tuesday.
The 43-year-old made history earlier this year by becoming the first transgender athlete to compete in an individual event at the Olympic Games as she took part in the 87+ kg weightlifting. And while Hubbard failed to record a successful snatch lift in Tokyo, she has still been recognised for her landmark achievement, becoming the first transgender winner of the award in its 113-year history.
In a statement made to the Otago Daily Times after receiving the award, Hubbard said she was ‘grateful for all of the support and kindness received from the teaching staff and students at Otago University’’. Hubbard then went on to add: ‘‘It is not possible for athletes to complete at the Olympic level without the encouragement and aroha of friends, family and supporters.
‘‘This award belongs to everyone who has been part of my Olympic journey.’’ Hubbard had previously competed for New Zealand as a 20-year-old junior male athlete. Hubbard, 43, caused controversy by making the Olympics, leading to a debate over whether biological men should be able to compete with women [The Sun].
Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen said that giving Hubbard the chance to compete was unfair to others. “Anyone that has trained weightlifting at a high level knows this to be true in their bones: This particular situation is unfair to the sport and to the athletes.”
Otago University Students’ Association President Michaela Waite-Harvey said Hubbard deserved the prize. “We could think of no one more worthy of sportswoman of the year than Laurel Hubbard who represented Otago and New Zealand incredibly well at this year’s Tokyo Olympics,” Waite-Harvey said [Western Journal].
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