Transgender weightlifter cops massive setback in Olympics bid

Controversial transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard's hopes of Olympic Games qualification have taken a hit at the Australian Open qualifiers.

Hubbard, who competed in men's weightlifting competitions before transitioning seven years ago, was lifting in the women's 87-plus kg division in Canberra on Sunday.

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She kept her Olympic hopes alive by winning last month's World Cup in Rome where she lifted 270kg, edging Ukraine's Anastasiia Lysenko by 4kg.

However, those hopes took another dramatic twist despite a strong start in the snatch, where Hubbard lifted a personal best 133kg.

The lift bettered Hubbard's Oceania record but any advantage she had in the first stage of qualifying, was undone in the clean-and-jerk.

Hubbard made her first two attempts at 145kg and 146kg but was red-flagged on both occasions for pressing out (failing to fulling extend or locking out her elbows).

The weightlifter then failed at her third and final attempt at 151kg - failing to register a single score for the clean-and-jerk.

Laurel Hubbard's next shot at Olympic Games qualification comes in Nauru. Pic: Getty

The Australian Open offered another chance for 42-year-old Hubbard to shore up ranking points in qualifying, which requires lifters to compete in at least six events in an 18-month period before the Games.

The New Zealand athlete will turn her attention to the Oceania Championships in Nauru, which offer another chance for Olympic qualification.

Hubbard will have her work cut out against closest continental rival Feagaiga Stowers of Samoa, who didn't compete in Canberra but poses arguably the Kiwi's biggest obstacle in Nauru.

The 42-year-old needs to be Oceania's top-ranked weightlifter in her category to secure a ticket to the Tokyo Games.

Hubbard is eligible to compete in women's events, according to the International Weightlifting Federation's guidelines for the inclusion of transgender athletes.

She is also eligible to lift at Tokyo if she qualifies.

The International Olympic Committee's guidelines, issued in 2015, allow any transgender athlete to compete as a woman provided their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months before their first competition.

Kiwi divides opinions of rivals

Hubbard's participation in women's events has dismayed rival lifters and their coaches.

Her gold medal wins at the Pacific Games in Samoa last year, where she topped the podium ahead of Samoa's Commonwealth Games champion Stowers, triggered outrage in the island nation.

Australia's weightlifting federation sought to block Hubbard from competing at their home Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in 2018 but organisers rejected their bid.

Australian former track athlete Tamsyn Manou, who won three Commonwealth golds competing as Tamsyn Lewis from 1998-2006, said on Thursday that women needed to "take a stand" over the inclusion of transgender athletes in their sports.

"There's been a lot of people who are scared to come out and say anything because of political correctness," Manou told local radio station 2GB.

Laurel Hubbard suffered a gruesome injury at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Pic: Getty

Qualifying for Tokyo would be a triumph for the media-shy Hubbard, who thought her weightlifting career was over after suffering a serious arm injury at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Coming back from surgery, she has had unwavering support from Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand for her Tokyo bid.

"Nothing has changed for us," Simon Kent, OWNZ's head of high performance told Reuters. "We are still following the same parameters we have since the get-go. We follow the IOC protocols and as Laurel said, she meets (them)."

With agencies