New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will become the first transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics after officials on Monday selected her to be part of the country’s national team for the Tokyo Games.
Hubbard, 43, will be competing in the women’s 87-kg weightlifting category. This will be her first Olympics.She returned to the sport after breaking her arm at the Commonwealth Games in 2018.
“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.
She said after she broke her arm, she was advised that her “sporting career had likely reached its end” but added that her fans’ support, encouragement and aroha – which means “love” in Māori – “carried [her] through the darkness.”
While Hubbard is eligible to compete in the Olympics, her participation has caused a controversy, with some saying it is unfair. Hubbard had competed in men’s weightlifting competitions before coming out as a transgender in 2013.
“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,” Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen, who is competing in the same category, said in an interview.
“Allowing biological males to compete in the female division removes the basis of equality between men and women,” a spokeswoman from Save Women’s Sport Australasia said in a statement.
The International Olympic Committee in 2015 changed its rules to allowing athletes who transition from male to female to compete in the female category, if their testosterone levels are below a certain threshold.
Those who transition from female to male can compete in the male category without restriction.