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NZ’s Hubbard to Be 1st Transgender Athlete in Olympic History

The International Olympic Committee changed its rules to include transgender persons in 2015.

Published
Gender
2 min read
New Zealand’s Laurel Hubbard lifts in the snatch of the women’s +90kg weightlifting final the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.
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New Zealand’s Laurel Hubbard, 43, is the first trans woman athlete to be selected for the Tokyo Olympics. She will participate in the 2020 Olympics, as a part of the women’s weightlifting team, in the 87-kg weightlifting category.

Before coming out as a transgender person in 2013, Hubbard had participated in the men’s weightlifting events.

“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders.”
Laurel Hubbard, in a statement issued by the New Zealand Olympic Committee, quoted by the BBC

In 2015, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) changed its rules to allow trans women athletes to compete in the women’s events, provided that their testosterone levels are below a certain threshold.

Hubbard met the criteria and will compete at the Tokyo Olympics 2021.

Hubbard, New Zealand’s First Medallist at World Championships

Previously, Hubbard has also participated in the women’s +90 kg category at the Commonwealth Games in 2018 and received full support from the organisers. Here too, she was the first transgender athlete to participate but was unfortunately forced to withdraw on account of a dislocated shoulder.

Winning two silver medals at the World Championships in Anaheim in the +90 kg category in 2017, she became New Zealand’s first medallist at the competition.

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‘Support Her Completely’: NZ Govt

New Zealand Olympic Committee said that they supported Hubbard’s inclusion in the Olympics completely.

“While being among the world’s best for her event, Laurel has met the IWF eligibility criteria, including those based on IOC Consensus Statement guidelines for transgender athletes.”
Kereyn Smith, Chief Executive of the New Zealand Olympic Committee, quoted by BBC

“We acknowledge that gender identity in sport is a highly sensitive and complex issue requiring a balance between human rights and fairness on the field of play,” Smith further added, as quoted by BBC.

He cited their team’s “strong culture of manaaki (respect) and inclusion and respect for all.”

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‘Like a Bad Joke’: Opposition to Hubbard’s Inclusion

However, the Committee’s decision has not been met with praise from everyone.

Belgian weightlifter competing in the same category, Anna Vanbellinghen, said that Hubbard being allowed to participate in the women’s event would be unfair for women, and “like a bad joke”.

“Anyone that has trained weightlifting at a high level knows this to be true in their bones: this particular situation is unfair to the sport and to the athletes. Life-changing opportunities are missed for some athletes – medals and Olympic qualifications – and we are powerless.”
Anna Vanbellinghen told BBC in May

(With inputs from BBC)

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