Laurel Hubbard, transgender weightlifter, very likely to qualify for Olympics

Getty Images
0 Comments

Laurel Hubbard, a transgender weightlifter from New Zealand, is very likely to earn an Olympic berth as the qualifying deadline of May 31 nears.

No openly transgender athlete has competed at an Olympics, according to Olympic historians. Hubbard, 43, transitioned in her mid-30s and has competed at the top international level since 2017.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee issued a statement after Wednesday reports that Hubbard clinched Olympic qualification, clarifying that it’s “very likely” she will qualify an Olympic spot. If she qualifies, the committee is expected to decide in June whether to take the next and final step — nominating her to the Olympic team.

It will nominate athletes who demonstrate the potential to place in the top eight in Tokyo. Hubbard was second and sixth at the world championships in 2017 and 2019. Her last recorded international result was March 1, 2020.

“We are not in a position to comment on the likelihood of any athlete’s selection until we have the necessary evidence,” according to the NZOC statement.

The International Weightlifting Federation adheres to IOC transgender guidelines introduced in 2015: athletes who transition from male to female are eligible for the Olympics if their total testosterone level in serum has been below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months. The athlete’s declaration that her gender identity is female also cannot be changed for at least four years.

Hubbard competed against men until 2001, stopping lifting at age 23 due to “the pressure of trying to fit into, perhaps, a world that wasn’t really set up for people like myself,” she said in 2017.

Hubbard last spoke extensively to media after taking silver at the 2017 World Championships behind American Sarah Robles. She has since declined interview requests through New Zealand’s federation, including after Wednesday’s reports.

“To be honest, I had to wait until the world changed before I could really compete again, and I’m grateful that it has,” Hubbard said in 2017, adding that she regained the belief to compete in 2014. “I think even 10 years ago, the world perhaps wasn’t ready for an athlete like myself, and perhaps it’s not ready now. But I got the sense at least that people were willing to consider me for these competitions.”

Hubbard ranks 16th overall in the 87+kg weight class in Olympic qualifying. The top eight lifters are guaranteed spots, one per nation, and then each continent also gets one spot, excluding nations that qualified in the top eight.

Hubbard currently has Oceania’s continental spot, leading a lifter from Australia by 89.9976 points. To put that margin in perspective, both have more than 1,900 points from totaling four of their best competition results since November 2018.

Another Oceania lifter, from Samoa, ranks seventh overall when excluding extra, higher-ranked lifters from China and South Korea, a Russian who is currently banned and a North Korean after that nation announced it will not send athletes to the Tokyo Games. If the Samoan drops out of the top eight, the Samoan is in line to take the Oceania spot from Hubbard.

There are remaining qualifying events before the May 31 deadline — one next week in Colombia (the Australian lifter was not on the start list as of Wednesday), the African Championships the week after that and the world junior championships in the last week of May.

The junior world championships are for lifters born in 2000 or later. The Australian trailing Hubbard was born in 1999.

Hubbard came back from rupturing an elbow ligament on a snatch attempt in April 2018, an injury she believed would be career-ending, to remain Olympic eligible.

Hubbard needed to compete once between Nov. 1, 2018 and April 30, 2019 to stay in the qualifying race. She did so on April 29, 2019, taking three snatch attempts and failing on all of them — “bombing out,” as they say in weightlifting — and receiving zero qualifying points, but retaining Olympic eligibility.

Hubbard, whose father is Dick Hubbard, a former Auckland mayor and cereal magnate, according to New Zealand media, climbed in the Olympic qualifying race while winning five of her last seven competitions. She was in position to qualify for Tokyo on the original deadline of April 30.

The IOC on Tuesday approved the IWF’s proposed changes to qualifying, including extending the deadline to May 31. Many Olympic sports made qualifying changes as competitions have been canceled and altered over the last 14 months.

Hubbard would break the record for oldest female Olympic weightlifter by more than four years, according to Olympedia.org.

“I’m not here to change the world,” she said in 2017. “I just want to be me and just do what I do.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele
Getty
0 Comments

LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

Yalemzerf Yehualaw
Getty
0 Comments

Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!