This award belongs to everyone who has been part of my Olympic journey.” –Laurel Hubbard

By Roger Childs

Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard has received world-wide publicity — and much derision — this year because of ‘her’ participation in the recent Tokyo Olympics. ‘Her’ selection in the New Zealand team created history as ‘she’ was the first transgender person in the world to compete in the Games. 

There was plenty of criticism about the selection, as many pointed out ‘she’ had an unfair advantage over other women competing because ‘she’ had passed through puberty as a male. Those who opposed ‘her’ selection included weightlifters Anna Van Bellingham and Tracey Lambrechs. One of tennis’s greats, Martina Navratilova, was also critical of the choice.

A flop in Tokyo

Nevertheless, ‘she’ did compete — and was an embarrassing failure. In the + 87 kg class competing in the Snatch ‘she’ failed at 120 kg and twice at 125 kg. Then in the Clean and Jerk she did not attempt any weight. It was a short and ignominious Olympic experience for the 42-year-old which is best confined to the trash can of sporting history. But the University of Otago has chosen to honour ‘her‘!

A ludicrous decision

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. –Otago University Students’ Association president Michaela Waite-Harvey

Earlier this week the University decided to award the Queenstown weightlifter the prestigious award. Michaela Waite-Harvey said that the Blues awards aim to highlight Otago students excelling in their chosen sport. But Hubbard did not excel and in fact was unable to complete any lift at Tokyo. Clearly the award was not merited and Olympic selection alone was no justification.

One has to wonder if the NZ Olympic Committee made the unjustified selection simply to get worldwide headlines.

There were other worthy candidates for the Sportswoman of the Year award and one that stands out is Southern Steel netballer Tiana Metuarau, who recently debuted for the Silver Ferns in the series against the England Roses. In the first test – the only one the Ferns won – the 20 year old was a star, netting 17 of her 19 shots at goal. For this meritorious effort she was named player of the match.

Metuarau excelled in 2021, Hubbard did not.


The obvious contender for Sportswoman of the Year – in the national Halberg Sports Awards in February is Lisa Carrington. The Otago University awards are small fry and just local regional ones.

Lisa Carrington is New Zealand’s most successful ever Olympian, who has won a total of five gold medals — two of them in Tokyo this year — and one bronze medal.