Back in May, it was thought that Laurel Hubbard would become the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics, after the qualifying requirements for athletes was revised. She has now been selected by New Zealand for the women’s weightlifting event at the Tokyo Games.
Previously, the Tokyo 2020 qualifying requirements for athletes meant they had to attend six competitions prior to the games; this was reduced to four, and meant that Hubbard became eligible. Hubbard will compete in the super-heavyweight 87kg category, and at 43 years old she will be the oldest of the lifters to compete.
In 2017, Hubbard won New Zealand’s first-ever weightlifting world championship medal, placing second overall in the International Wrestling Federation (IWF) World Weightlifting Championships in Anaheim, California.
The New Zealand government has offered its support for Hubbard, with the minister for sport and recreation, Grant Robertson, saying: “Laurel is a member of New Zealand’s Olympic team. We are proud of her as we are of all our athletes, and will be supporting her all the way.”
New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) chief executive Kereyn Smith said Laurel would be welcomed to the New Zealand team.
“As well as being among the world’s best for her event, Laurel has met the IWF eligibility criteria including those based on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Consensus Statement guidelines for transgender athletes.
“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.”
Hubbard has faced a lot of backlash for her participation in weightlifting, with a lot of anti-trans positions being taken. As she will be the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics, the discrimination has continued.
Belgian weightlifter, Anna Van Bellinghen, said last month that allowing Hubbard to compete at the Tokyo Olympics was unfair for women and “like a bad joke.”
Speaking to Radio New Zealand in 2017, Hubbard said she just wanted to compete in the sport she loves and “blocked out” any criticism. “If I try and take that weight on board it just makes the lifts harder… I am who I am,” she said, “I don’t want to change the world. I just want to be me and do what I do.”
The Olympic Games will be taking place in Tokyo this summer, beginning on Friday July 23. We wish Laurel the best of luck in her Olympic debut.
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