New Zealand has named weightlifter Laurel Hubbard in its women’s weightlifting team for the Tokyo Olympic Games. Forty-three year old Hubbard will be the first openly transgender athlete to compete in the Olympic Games, following modification of qualifying rules.
At 43, Hubbard may be on the older end of the scale to participate in the Olympics and will be the fourth oldest weightlifter who is a bona fide medal seeker in her performance as a super heavyweight participating in the 87kg-plus category at the Tokyo games.
“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders,” Hubbard said in a statement.
“The last eighteen months has shown us all that there is strength in kinship, in community, and in working together towards a common purpose. The mana of the silver fern comes from all of you and I will wear it with pride,” said Hubbard.
IOC Guidelines On Trans Athletes
Hubbard had competed in the men’s weightlifting events before transitioning in 2013 and has been eligible to compete since 2015 when the International Olympic Committee’s changed its guidelines with regard to transgender athletes.
The guidelines say that athletes who transition from male to female can compete in the women’s category without requiring surgery to remove their testes – provided their total testosterone level in serum is kept below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months.
In 2017, Hubbard took home the silver from the Women’s World Championships and then made a comeback to the game after a major injury in 2018.
Hubbard’s inclusion has been welcomed by the LGBTQI+ community.
The guidelines for trans-inclusion at the Olympics have been thoughtfully studied, created, and implemented, which is partly why no transgender person has ever competed at the Olympics. The standards are incredibly high.
I'll be rooting for Laurel Hubbard as she makes history. https://t.co/C9E5kfiUCH
— Charlotte Clymer 🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) June 21, 2021
Transphobia On Social Media
The welcome has not been universal though, especially on social media, with many, including Piers Morgan, fanning transphobia.
Laurel Hubbard has literally prevented a 'cisgender woman' from fulfilling her dream of competing at the Olympics. What more evidence do you need? https://t.co/f8z01LbmKe
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) June 21, 2021
One of Hubbard’s competitors, Belgian super-heavyweight weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen, had previously claimed her participation “feels like a bad joke” and she will have an unfair advantage.
New Zealand Olympics Team Backs Transgender Athlete
The New Zealand Olympic Committee has stood by its decision. Chief executive, Kereyn Smith pointed out that Hubbard was selected after having met the IOC eligibility criteria.
“Laurel has met the IWF eligibility criteria including those based on 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. As the New Zealand team, we have a strong culture of ‘manaaki‘ (respect) and inclusion and respect for all,” added Smith.
Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand President Richie Patterson pointed out that Hubbard had “shown grit and perseverance in her return from a significant injury and overcoming the challenges in building back confidence on the competition platform.”