Laurel Hubbard, 43, will compete in the women’s overweight event in Tokyo.
Weightlifting Laurel Hubbard will become the first transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics after being selected by New Zealand for the women’s event at the Tokyo Games, a decision that will test the ideal of fair competition in sport.
New Zealand Olympic Committee chief Kereyn Smith said Hubbard, 43, who was assigned a man at birth but became a woman in 2013, had met all qualifying criteria for transgender athletes. .
“We recognize that gender identity in sport is a highly sensitive and complex issue that requires a balance between human rights and justice on the playing field,” Smith said in a statement.
Hubbard will compete in the 87kg superweight category after showing testosterone levels below the threshold required by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The 43-year-old had competed in male weightlifting competitions before making the transition.
“I am grateful and humiliated for the kindness and support that so many New Zealanders have given me,” Hubbard, a very intense person who rarely speaks to the media, said in a statement issued by the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC ) ) Monday.
Hubbard has been eligible to compete in the Olympics since 2015, when the IOC issued guidelines that allow any transgender athlete to compete as a woman as long as their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months before the his first competition.
Some scientists have said the guidelines do little to mitigate the biological benefits of people who have passed puberty as males, including bone and muscle density.
Proponents of transgender inclusion argue that the transition process greatly diminishes this advantage and that physical differences between athletes mean that there is never a truly equitable playing field.
Save Women’s Sport Australasia, a women’s sports advocacy group, criticized Hubbard’s selection.
“It is a flawed IOC policy that has made it possible to select a 43-year-old biological man who identifies as a woman to compete in the female category,” the group said in a statement.
Weightlifting has been at the center of the debate over the justice of transgender athletes competing against women, and Hubbard’s presence in Tokyo could be divisive.
He won his gold medal at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa, where he topped the podium ahead of Samoan champion Feagaiga Stowers, which sparked outrage in the host nation.
The head of Samoa weightlifting said Hubbard’s selection for Tokyo would be like letting athletes “drug” and feared it could cost a medal to the small Pacific nation.
Belgian alterophilia Anna Vanbellinghen said last month allowing Hubbard to compete in Tokyo was unfair to women and “as a bad joke.”
The Australian weightlifting federation tried to prevent Hubbard from competing in the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, but organizers rejected the decision.
Hubbard was forced to retire after injuring himself during the competition and thought his career was over.
“When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth Games three years ago, I was informed that my sporting career had probably come to an end,” Hubbard said on Monday, thanking the New Zealanders.
“But your support, your spirit, and your love (love) led me through the darkness.”
New Zealand Weightlifting Olympic president Richie Patterson said Hubbard had worked hard to get back from the potentially final injury.
“Laurel has shown seriousness and perseverance in her return from a major injury and has overcome the challenges of regaining confidence in the competition platform,” he said.
Hubbard currently ranks 16th in the world in the overweight category.