Her story’s even more heartbreaking than the headline lets on. Kuinini “Nini” Manumua is an American of Tongan descent who hoped to compete for Team Tonga at the Tokyo Olympics. She suffered a terrible injury last June while performing a clean-and-jerk, fracturing her knee. In order to have a shot at qualifying for the Games this summer she needed aggressive rehab and then had to return to competitive form in time for the trials.
Which she did, somehow. You’ll see in the clip below, which was released in November 2020, that her coach was hopeful but uncertain about getting her healed by February 2021. She came through like a champ.
…and missed the Olympic cut anyway when Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand, who transitioned from a man to a woman several years ago, beat her out:
Let me explain that chart above.
Top 8 athletes straightforwardly qualify. There are then continental places up for grabs for those ranked 9 or lower.
Hubbard is 7 – outright qual.
Amoe bumped to 9 – move from outright qual to Oceania qual.
Manumua bumped from Oceania qual.
— Emma Hilton (@FondOfBeetles) June 22, 2021
According to the Guardian, Hubbard didn’t compete internationally in weightlifting until transitioning in 2012. Five years later she’d win the silver medal at the 2017 women’s world championships. The International Olympic Committee permits trans women to compete in women’s events without any requirement of surgery. All they need to do is keep their testosterone below a certain threshold — a threshold much higher than the level of testosterone a biological woman is likely to have in her body — for 12 months. How much does that level the playing field in competition? Not much, according to the science:
Last year, the scientists Emma Hilton and Tommy Lundberg found that the male performance advantage in weightlifting was 30% when compared to women. Their research indicated that even when transgender women suppressed testosterone for 12 months, the loss of lean body mass, muscle area and strength was only around 5%.
If you’re looking at the tweet above and wondering how Hubbard could fail to lead the pack, I assume it’s partly a function of age and partly of mediocrity. She’s 43 whereas the top-ranked woman, Wenwen Li, is 21. (As is Manumua.) It’s also not the case, of course, that any man can beat a top woman athlete at any sport. Below a certain threshold of talent, training, and physique, even a skilled amateur male tennis player would lose to Serena Williams. That’s what Hubbard is to weightlifting, it appears — a skilled ho-hum male weightlifter who became a champion once she transitioned, to the point where she’s able to qualify for the Olympics despite being literally twice as old as some of her competition.
I wonder how trans activists are hoping she does in Tokyo. You might think they want her to medal but that could actually set back their cause of making trans women eligible for women’s sports. Having 43-year-old Hubbard on the medal stand in front of the whole world would be powerful evidence of an unfair biological advantage. As for Manumua, she must be torn between whether to complain publicly about it or to bite her lip and smile. Trans rights activists are among the most vicious in the woke mob if you get on the wrong side of them. Maybe Manumua will decide that she doesn’t need any enemies to complicate her life more than the disappointment she’s just suffered already has.
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