ANAHEIM (Reuters) – A transgender weightlifter from New Zealand and an Iranian returning from an eight-year doping ban both won silver medals at the World Championships on the final day, which also witnessed two world records for Georgian Lasha Talakhadze.
Laurel Hubbard, 39, 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 Sarah Robles, who became the first from the United States to win gold at the World Championships in 23 years.
Robles totaled 284 kilograms ahead of Hubbard, who lifted 275kg, and Egyptian Shaimaa Khalaf on 268kg.
Talakhadze won the men’s super-heavyweights with a total of 477kg, improving his own world record by 4kg. He also broke his own snatch world record by 3kg when he lifted 220kg.
Iranians Saeed Alihosseini and Behdad Salimi were second and third with totals of 454kg and 453kg respectively.
Salimi had two lifts overruled by the jury for press-outs – not having his arm locked straight – much to the annoyance of a large contingent of Iranians in the crowd, who roared their disapproval even while others were competing.
Salimi had failed to register a total in the Rio Olympic Games in similar circumstances, when armed police were called as a precaution as angry Iranians protested.
Alihosseini, 29, who still holds the junior world records he set in 2008, was originally banned for life but successfully appealed and has trained at his father’s gym since 2011 when CAS reduced the suspension to eight years. He intends to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Hubbard won New Zealand’s first medal in the World Championships, which began in 1891, but declined to discuss her achievement and refused to attend media conferences.
“She stayed away because she was embarrassed, probably,” said Tim Swords, who coaches Robles.
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).
Many rivals, however, feel she has an unfair advantage.
“There was no controversy between the lifters about her presence here, but there was between some of the coaching staffs,” Swords said.
“When Sarah beat Hubbard in the snatch we were congratulated by multiple coaching staffs. Nobody wanted her to win.”
Mohamed Hosnytaha, coach of bronze medalist Khalaf, and of Egypt’s national team, said: “We didn’t agree with it, with somebody who was a man for so long, who has different hormones, different feelings.”
Iran finished joint equal top of the medals table with Colombia despite having a men-only team.
Ali Moradi, president of the Iranian Weightlifting Federation, said his nation expected to have females competing for the first time at next year’s World Championships in Turkmenistan.
(Reporting by Brian Oliver; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)