Laurel Hubbard: First transgender athlete selected to compete at Olympics

21 June 2021, 08:55

Laurel Hubbard was selected by the New Zealand Olympics Committee.
Laurel Hubbard was selected by the New Zealand Olympics Committee. Picture: PA

By Emma Soteriou

Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will be the first transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics, the New Zealand Olympics Committee (NZOC) has confirmed.

She was selected as a part of the country's weightlifting team, in the women's super heavyweight category.

She originally competed as a male weightlifter before her transition in 2012, and she returned to the sport in 2017.

This will be her first Olympic Games and a come-back, following a sporting injury in 2018.

“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders,” the weightlifter said in a statement from NZOC.

“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.

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The weightlifter injured her arm in 2018's Commonwealth Games.
The weightlifter injured her arm in 2018's Commonwealth Games. Picture: PA

“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.”

Chief executive of NZOC, 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." 

Other competitors, including Belgium's Anna Van Bellinghen, have previously criticised the move, despite being in full support of the transgender community.

"I am aware that defining a legal frame for transgender participation in sports is very difficult since there is an infinite variety of situations, and that reaching an entirely satisfactory solution, from either side of the debate, is probably impossible," she said in May.

"However, 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."

Ms Hubbard was one of five weightlifters announced by NZOC to be taking part in the upcoming games, taking the total number of athletes selected for the team to 133.