No matter what happens at these Commonwealth Games, no matter how many medals New Zealand win, the most inspiring sight surely came when Sophie Pascoe led out the Kiwi team at the opening ceremony.

Perhaps, though, if all goes to plan, such a welcome and inclusive moment can be replicated when the Games close a week tonight.

If Laurel Hubbard does as many expect and wins gold in the women's 90kg+ weightlifting class tomorrow, she would be an exceptional choice as the flagbearer for the closing ceremony.

There may be more deserving options on purely athletic merit - multi-medal winners will certainly be worthy. And there's no guarantee Hubbard will want to play that prominent role, after understandably opting to avoid the spotlight before the Games.


But choosing the transgender lifter for the honour would be a perfect bookend to the way Pascoe opened New Zealand's involvement on Wednesday.

As chef de mission Rob Waddell explained when bestowing the Kiwi flag on the nine-time Paralympic gold medallist, Pascoe inspires every time she competes.

"What this athlete does transcends sport and touches the hearts and emotions of every New Zealander."

And as Waddell also said, these Friendly Games should serve another purpose separate from sheer competition: "The Commonwealth Games are about inclusivity and making sure everyone gets an equal chance."

No other athlete shines as bright a beacon for inspiration and equality as Hubbard. And no other athlete at these Games is as important, given the gradual fight for LGBT rights in and outside of sport.

The enduring international memory of this year's Winter Olympics will be figure skater Adam Rippon becoming the first openly gay American man to win a medal.

Rippon's sexuality was a feature, never a bug, as he used social media to spread an always-amusing and inclusive message - and as he declined the chance to meet Mike Pence, the US vice-president with a record of obstructing LGBT rights.

But the T part of that equation remains relatively unseen in world sport. And the views of people such as Australian weightlifting boss Michael Keelan go some way to explaining why.


"Weightlifting has always been a gender-specific sport," he wrote in opposition to Hubbard's involvement on the Gold Coast. "In our respectful view, the criteria and its application has the potential to devalue women's weightlifting."

Well, at least he said "respectful", right?

Keelan is far from alone in questioning Hubbard's involvement and it's justifiable to pose questions about any unfair advantages she may possess. Thankfully, though, those questions have been answered, with Hubbard meeting IOC guidelines after undergoing 12 months of hormone therapy and recording low levels of testosterone.

Opposition to Hubbard, then, seems straightforward. Some will be genuine - if misguided - concern about the sanctity of the sport. Those dissenters should be asked what's of greater import: A shiny piece of metal awarded to the winner of a frivolous competition, or a symbol that could literally change lives?

But plenty of the discord will be pure discrimination disguised as that same concern.

Just ask Hubbard. "I'm not going to say it wasn't hard," she said last year about the reaction to her emergence in international competition. "You would have to be a robot to not be affected by some of that and what people were saying."


It almost seems more trouble than it's worth. Which is exactly why Hubbard, if she claims gold, should be elevated to the flagbearing position as a point of undisputed pride within the New Zealand team.

As a role model for what other transgender athletes can achieve, absolutely, but much more so as a striking example to any kids in this country who wonder whether the way they feel is normal, whether they are alone, whether they will ever be accepted.

Izzy for real with these views?

On a similar subject, Australian journalist Peter FitzSimons succinctly summed up how damaging views like Israel Folau's can be:

"If you were, say, a 14-year-old in Sydney's strong Polynesian community, still believed in the whole heaven/hell thing, and were gay, can I suggest his words would be likely traumatising, yes?"

Yes, I believe being told you're going to be condemned to eternal damnation due to your sexuality may be rather disturbing.


But can we take a moment to appreciate just how dumb Folau must be for doing this again?

If you do hold those abhorrent beliefs, Izzy, keep them to yourself. Come on, man. What happened last time you expressed your unenlightened opinions on gay rights? Massive backlash.

And now you're going through it all over again?

The tide has well and truly turned on this issue, cobber. Repeatedly thrash against it in such a public manner and you probably deserve to drown in the shit storm that follows.