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Laurel Hubbard officially becomes the first out trans woman to compete at Olympics

The New Zealander is currently competing in the women's 87KG event in Tokyo.

2021-08-02

Words: Alastair James; pictures: olympic.org.nz

Laurel Hubbard has officially become the first out trans woman to compete at an Olympic Games.

Monday (2 August) saw the 43-year-old New Zealander compete in the women's 87Kg weightlifting event in Tokyo against the likes of Team GB's Emily Campbell. Hubbard was selected to be one of five representatives for her country in weightlifting at Tokyo 2020, which was originally due to take place last year.

Kanah Andrews-Nahu and Megan Signal round off the female representatives for New Zealand, while David Liti and Cameron McTaggart will compete in the men’s categories. All five will make their Olympic debuts in Tokyo.

"I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support"

In a statement announcing her selection to the New Zealand team in June, the two-time World Championship silver medal winner, said: “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 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 (love in Maori) carried me through the darkness.

“The last 18 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.”

Hubbard is allowed to compete in the games due to new guidelines issued by the International Olympics Committee in 2015. Trans men can compete without restriction, while trans women must have testosterone levels below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months before their first competition, which Hubbard has met. 

However, this has not stopped her inclusion being fiercely debated, with some saying it's "unfair", including the Belgian weightlifter Anna Van Bellinghen. However, Team GB's Emily Campbell has supported Hubbard saying, "Nobody has broken any rules, everybody stuck to them and qualified fairly."

Last week the IOC praised Hubbard for her "courage and tenacity" in preparing for the games, with their medical and science director, Dr Richard Budgett, saying “everyone agrees that trans women are women”.

However, on Friday (30 July) Budgett also indicated that changes to the rules around trans athletes were imminent as the science since the 2015 guidelines were issued had moved on. He also maintained that inclusion was key to sport.