Laurel Hubbard becomes first transgender weightlifter to compete at Olympics after overcoming career-threatening injury

THE DECISION to allow transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard to compete at the Olympics has sparked controversy ahead of the Tokoyo Games.

Kiwi officials selected the New Zealander for the women's weightlifting team after recent modifications to qualifying requirements.

The 43-year-old, who many thought her career was over in 2018 after she sustained a horrific injury to her elbow, previously competed in men's events before coming out as transgender back in 2013.

A host of critics claim Hubbard has an unfair advantage although others are arguing that there should be more inclusion at the Games.

In a statement issued by the New Zealand Olympic Committee in June, Hubbard said: “I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders.”

Hubbard will compete in the women's 87-kg weightlifting category. 

She became eligible when the International Olympic Committee in 2015 changed its rules.

The IOC are now allowing transgender athletes to compete as a woman if their testosterone, a hormone that increases muscle mass, levels are below a certain threshold.

Hubbard’s testosterone levels are below that threshold, but that has not stopped critics claiming her participation in the Olympics is still unfair to female-born athletes.

They pointed to the biological advantages, such as increased bone and muscle density, of those who went through puberty as males.


Fellow weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen, who will compete in Hubbard’s category, said it would be unfair for women and ‘like a bad joke’ if she was allowed to participate in Tokyo.

Although the Belgian says she fully supported the transgender community, the principle of inclusion should not be ‘at the expense of other’ female athletes.

Vanbellinghen said last month: “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.

“Life-changing opportunities are missed for some athletes – medals and Olympic qualifications – and we are powerless.”

An advocacy group arguing against transgender athletes to compete in women's competitions has also blasted her inclusion.

Save Women's Sport Australasia said in a statement: “It is flawed policy from the IOC that has allowed the selection of a 43-year-old biological male who identifies as a woman to compete in the female category.”

However, both New Zealand's government and the nation’s top sporting body have backed her inclusion.


New Zealand Olympic Committee chief executive Kereyn Smith said: “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) and inclusion and respect for all.”

The head of Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand, Richie Patterson, said: “We look forward to supporting her in her final preparations towards Tokyo.”

Hubbard is one of the favourites to land a medal in the Far East despite her participation in previous competitions sparking controversy.

She won gold at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa, beating an athlete from the host nation, which led to massive outrage.


Samoa's weightlifting boss has since claimed her selection for the Olympics is like allowing athletes to ‘dope’ and says it could again cost his country a medal.

Australia's weightlifting federation also tried to ban Hubbard from the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

Organisers rejected the move but Hubbard eventually withdrew from the competition due to a horror elbow injury.


The New Zealand released this statement after her inclusion for the Tokyo Olympic Games:

“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 CW Games, I was advised my career had likely reached its end. But your support, encouragement  and 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.”

    Source: Read Full Article