‘I was quite sick about the situation’: Fury as biological male wins women’s croquet world title

It is the first known case anywhere of a women’s global title being awarded to somebody born male. Australia’s Jamie Gumbrell, who was competing as a male as recently as 2019, is recognised by the World Croquet Federation (WCF) as having been “assigned male at birth”. But when the sport returned from its pandemic-enforced shutdown, the 23-year-old from Canberra began identifying as female and in August became the women’s world champion at the first attempt.

Telegraph Sport has spoken to several of Gumbrell’s fellow competitors, all of whom are furious about the unquestioning gender policy that enabled the Australian to self-identify into the female category and beat England’s Rachel Gee, the 2011 champion, in this year’s final. Sue Lightbody, a member of the England team at the worlds, said women had no idea they would be playing against a biological male until they arrived at the tournament in Southwick, near Brighton.

Croquet’s gender policy is essentially one of pure self-ID, allowing players to compete according to the “gender identity that they persistently and consistently use”. Ian Burridge, president of the WCF, said: “The fact that Jamie was assigned male at birth is not disputed by anyone. Jamie now identifies as female as her entry into the world championships was determined in accordance with our policy, approved by our members in April 2022. We welcome feedback, given the concerns that exist around speaking out in this area.”

Another female international involved at the worlds, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “It’s not just jump shots. To hit a ball that weighs 500 grams 20 metres, I have to use 80 per cent of my strength. The more strength you use, the more precision you lose. Endurance is also a factor. But in a sense, the ‘why’ is not so important. The world rankings, where only 12 of the top 100 players are women, prove that there is a difference.

“We never thought we would have this problem. I really felt sorry in the final for Rachel, who at the end was hiding behind her sunglasses because she was crying. She didn’t complain. She had been training so hard to be the women’s world champion, and then someone born male comes and takes it away.”

A source in Australia said: “What I know is that since playing women’s events, Jamie has won them all: women’s worlds, Australian women’s singles twice, New South Wales women’s singles. Recently, in our team event representing New South Wales as their No 1 woman, Jamie was undefeated in the five-day event. None of the other No 1 women players were undefeated. Perhaps those results tell the story.”

Source: ‘I was quite sick about the situation’: Fury as biological male wins women’s croquet world title

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