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Laurel Hubbard to become first trans athlete to compete at the Olympics

“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders."

2021-06-22

Words: Alastair James; picture: olympic.org.nz

Laurel Hubbard from New Zealand will become the first publicly trans athlete to compete at the Olympics after she was added to the national team yesterday (Monday 21 June).

The 43-year-old athlete been selected as one of five representatives for the country in weightlifting at the Tokyo Games, which were originally due to take place last year.

Hubbard, from Auckland, will compete in the women’s 87kg category.

Kanah Andrews-Nahu and Megan Signal round off the female representatives for New Zealand, while David Liti and Cameron McTaggart will compete in the men’s categories. All five will make their Olympic debuts in Tokyo.

 “I am grateful and humbled”

The 43-year-old said in a statement: “I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders.

“When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth Games three years ago, I was advised that my sporting career had likely reached its end. But your support, your encouragement, and your aroha (love in Maori) 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 of the silver fern comes from all of you and I will wear it with pride.”

A two-time 2017 World Championship silver medal winner, Hubbard said in a 2017 interview with RNZ: "I am who I am. I'm not here to change the world. I just want to be me and do what I do."

Hubbard - who ranks 17th in the world - is eligible to compete at the Olympics since the IOC issued new guidelines in 2015. Trans men can compete without restriction, while trans women must have testosterone levels below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months before their first competition.

“We are committed to supporting all eligible New Zealand athletes”

The New Zealand Olympic Committee’s CEO Kereyn Smith welcomed the news, saying: “As well as 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. 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 in Maori) and inclusion and respect for all. We are committed to supporting all eligible New Zealand athletes and ensuring their mental and physical wellbeing, along with their high-performance needs, while preparing for and competing at the Olympic Games are met.”

Richie Patterson, the President of Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand added Hubbard had worked hard to qualify for the Olympic Games after coming back from a significant injury. The total number of athletes selected to the New Zealand Team now stands at 133.

Hubbard has also been supported by the country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who said: “All parties have simply followed the rules.”

"Every child deserves to have that experience"

The decision to include Hubbard in the New Zealand team has been criticised by Save Women's Sport Australasia, an advocacy group arguing against trans athletes competing in women's competitions. Others, such as Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen, have said Hubbard’s inclusion is unfair, as reported by the BBC.

Similar comments on trans women competing in sport have been made recently by Olympian and reality star Caitlyn Jenner, who was criticised by the American female footballer Megan Rapinoe. Meanwhile, in the US, several states have introduced legislation preventing trans youth from competing in school sports.

Addressing such laws, Rapinoe said in May: "Every child deserves to have that experience."

The Summer Olympics take place from Friday 23 July to Sunday 8 August 2021.

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