New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard to compete as first transgender Olympic athlete

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New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard is set to compete in the Tokyo Olympics as the first transgender athlete in the history of the games after she met several eligibility requirements.

Hubbard, 41, who transitioned to being female in her mid-30s, will compete in the women's heavyweight 87-kg category on August 2, the New Zealand Olympic Committee announced on Monday. The powerlifter has met regulations from the International Weightlifting Federation, the International Olympic Committee, and the NZOC.

One criterion for competing is that a transgender athlete must have a testosterone level of fewer than 10 nanomoles per liter for at least one year before entering the playing field.

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“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," NZOC CEO Kereyn Smith said in a statement. "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 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," Smith added.

FILE - In this Monday, April 9, 2018 file photo, New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard, right, stands with Australia's Deb Lovely-Acason ahead of the women's +90kg weightlifting final at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Australia. Hubbard was warmly welcomed by many spectators during the games, and was the favorite in the over-90-kilograms division but injured herself trying to set a games record. "The crowd was absolutely magnificent _ I felt just like a big embrace, and I wanted to give them something that reflected the best I could do," Hubbard said. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) Mark Schiefelbein/AP

Hubbard has been competing in local tournaments throughout New Zealand in recent years, though her career experienced a hiatus when she suffered a broken arm at the Commonwealth Games in 2018. She has since recovered and said she is "grateful" for the "support" she has received.

“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. “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 carried me through the darkness."

“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," she added.

Former athletes have taken the time to speak out against Hubbard's selection. Sharron Davies, who won a silver medal in swimming at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, insisted separate categories should be in place for male and female athletes and that sex, not gender, should be a determinant.

"We have men &women’s separate competition 4a BIG reason, biology in sport matters," she wrote in a Monday tweet. "Separate categories give females equal opportunities of sporting success, the average age of a female Olympic weight lifter is 23. Laurel Hubbard is 43. 30% unfair advantage! Sex not gender 4Sport."

Similarly, Daniel Leo, a successful New Zealand rugby player who won multiple titles between 2005 and 2014, said he was angered by the development.

"No offence to Laurel Hubbard or the trans-community but this makes me angry every time it comes up," he tweeted. "NZ have so many sporting achievements to be proud of but this tarnishes our reputation BIG TIME."

Hubbard, who prior to her gender transition held a junior record in the male 105kg class, was the subject of sharp backlash in 2017 when Australian Weightlifting Federation Chief Executive Michael Keelan claimed the 41-year-old had both a physiological and psychological advantage over her fellow competitors.

"We're in a power sport, which is normally related to masculine tendencies ... where you've got that aggression, you've got the right hormones, then you can lift bigger weights," Keelan said, regarding Hubbard's participation at the Commonwealth Games.

"If you've been a male and you've lifted certain weights, and then you suddenly transition to a female, then psychologically you know you've lifted those weights before," he added. "I personally don't think it's a level playing field. That's my personal view, and I think it's shared by a lot of people in the sporting world."

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The Tokyo Olympics are set to begin on July 23 and last until Aug. 8. On Monday, organizers announced that 10,000 local fans would be allowed to attend the venue, equating to roughly 50% capacity, following speculation that the games would lead to increased coronavirus spread throughout Japan.

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Tags: News, Tokyo, Olympics, 2020 Olympics, Sports, Transgender, Transgender Issues, New Zealand

Original Author: Jake Dima

Original Location: New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard to compete as first transgender Olympic athlete

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