6 May 2021

Laurel Hubbard set to become first transgender Olympic athlete

2:45 pm on 6 May 2021

Official selection is the only thing needed for weightlifter Laurel Hubbard to become the first transgender Olympian.

New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard.
Weightlifting, Women's +90kg 2018. Carrara Sports Hall. Commonwealth Games, Gold Coast, Australia.

Laurel Hubbard. Photo: Photosport

International weightlifting has rejigged its qualifying criteria for Tokyo because of limited competition over the past year due to Covid-19.

That means on current rankings Hubbard will qualify but she still needs to nominated by Weightlifting New Zealand then be officially selected by the New Zealand Olympic committee.

She has been eligible to compete in the Olympics since 2015, when the IOC issued new guidelines allowing any transgender athlete to compete as a woman provided their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months before their first competition.

Weightlifting New Zealand's high performance coach Simon Kent believes that appears a formality.

"The indication as this stage is that she is training well so all things being equal... the hope is that she will be in the right physical and mental state to be put in that position (and be selected)," Kent said.

"There's no immediate rush to say you have got to have hit certain numbers at certain points but we will look over the next two to three weeks as to where they are tracking and then we will go through that nomination process."

Hubbard competed at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and but Kent accepts the level of srutiny the level of scrutiny Hubbard will face in Tokyo will be much greater.

Her gold medal wins at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa, where she topped the podium ahead of Samoa's Commonwealth Games champion Feagaiga Stowers, triggered outrage in the island nation.

Australia's weightlifting federation also sought to block Hubbard from the Gold Coast Games but organisers rejected the move.

"The Commonwealth Games gave us a good insight into the discussion points and how it can become quite polarising... it's still such a new and under-researched area," Kent said.

"It's good that it's being talked about because this isn't something that is going to go away but we just approach it the same way - Laurel is a member of Weightlifting New Zealand and she currently meets all the rules and regulations that are in place and therefore we proceed accordingly."

Simon Kent, Highperformance Manager for NZ Weightlifting team.

Weightlifting NZ high performance coach Simon Kent. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

RNZ sought comment from the New Zealand Olympic Committee on how it was preparing for the global scrutiny Hubbard's selection will undoubtedly bring.

In a statement it said while the "revised International Federation (IF) qualification systems are very likely to see a number of New Zealand weightlifters, including transgender Commonwealth Games athlete Laurel Hubbard, allocated IF quota spots for Tokyo 2020.... we are not in a position to comment on the likelihood of any athlete's selection until we have the necessary evidence."

"The New Zealand Team has a strong culture of manaaki and inclusion and respect for all. We look forward to supporting all athletes selected to the New Zealand Team in Tokyo 2020," the statement concluded.

-RNZ