New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard is the first trans Olympic athlete

laurel hubbard transgender weightlifter
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New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will make history as she becomes the first transgender athlete to compete at the Tokyo Olympics.

Officials selected the 43-year-old this week for the New Zealand women’s weightlifting team for Toyko 2020 in August, alongside five others.

She will contest the women’s +87kg category at the Games. She currently ranks 16th in the world in the event.

“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support [from] so many New Zealanders,” Hubbard said in a statement.

Hubbard suffered a horror injury at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast that put her future in doubt.

“When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth Games three years ago, I was advised that my sporting career had likely reached its end,” she said.

“But your support, your encouragement, and your ‘aroha’ [affection] carried me through the darkness.

“The last 18 months has shown us all that there is strength in kinship, in community, and in working together towards a common purpose.

“The ‘mana’ [honour] of the silver fern comes from all of you and I will wear it with pride.”

Laurel Hubbard first trans competitor under new IOC rules

Laurel Hubbard underwent her gender transition in 2013, at the age of 35.

In 2015, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued guidance to allow trans women to compete if they fulfil certain criteria.

Their total testosterone level must stay below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months.

Hubbard met those requirements and is the first trans Olympic athlete to compete under them.

However she’s faced continuous questions around her eligibility from critics who argue despite the IOC rules she retains performance advantages.

In 2018, Australia’s weightlifting federation tried to block her from competing at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Organisers ultimately let her compete.

New Zealand Olympic Committee chief executive Kereyn Smith backed Hubbard’s inclusion on the team.

“Laurel has met the IWF eligibility criteria including those based on IOC guidelines for transgender athletes,” Smith said.

“We acknowledge gender identity in sport is a highly sensitive and complex issue, requiring a balance between human rights and fairness on the field of play.

“As the New Zealand team, we have a strong culture of ‘manaaki’ [respect] and inclusion and respect for all.”

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