New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard was selected as the first transgender Olympian on Monday after Kiwi officials launched a groundbreaking appeal on “a highly sensitive and complex issue.”
New Zealand Olympic Committee chief Kereyn Smith said Hubbard, 43 – who was born male but became female in his 30s – met all the qualifying criteria for transgender athletes.
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“We recognize that gender identity in sport is a very sensitive and complex issue requiring a balance between human rights and fairness on the playing field,” Smith said in a statement.
“As a New Zealand team, we have a strong culture of manaaki (care) and inclusion and respect for all.” Hubbard, who also competed as a male, became eligible to lift as a female after showing testosterone levels below the threshold required by the International Olympic Committee.
She will compete in the women’s +87 kg category in Tokyo, an event in which she is currently ranked 16th in the world.
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Former New Zealand weightlifter Tracey Lambrechs, who was forced to drop out of a division to compete in the 2018 Commonwealth Games because Hubbard was selected in her favorite event, said the selection was unfair.
Lambrechs, now retired, said the concerns of the born weightlifters had been ignored by officials.
“Everyone is shutting up and worried about how they will be viewed when it comes to talking about transgender athletes,” she told Radio New Zealand.
Lambrechs said if Hubbard were on the podium in her event, another medal of the same color should be awarded to the athlete who placed after her.
“If Laurel were to win gold, the next biological female would also have to win gold … then Laurel would be an Olympic champion as a transgender (person) and we would also have our female athlete as an Olympic champion,” he said. she declared.
Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand President Richie Patterson congratulated Hubbard on his return from a potentially fatal elbow injury suffered at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
– ‘Keep an open mind’ –
IOC rules state that a trans woman can compete as long as her testosterone level is below 10 nanomoles per liter, a criterion Hubbard meets.
But critics say she has many physical advantages in becoming a male that make her presence in competition unfair for born athletes.
Hubbard, an intensely private person who shuns the media, did not address the gender issue in the remarks released by the NZOC.
She thanked the community for supporting her return from injury. “I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support given to me by so many New Zealanders…
Transgender American BMX rider Chelsea Wolfe also has an outdoor chance to compete in the Games after being named a substitute for the U.S. team, meaning she will travel to Tokyo but will only compete if a teammate is forced to step down. .
But it was Hubbard who unwittingly became a lightning rod for the often vitriolic discussion about transgender participation in sport.
Donald Trump Jr. had called Hubbard’s prospect of being selected “ridiculous”, while British TV presenter Piers Morgan denounced the fact that women’s rights are “destroyed on the altar of political correctness”.
In a rare 2017 interview, Hubbard spoke about learning to block criticism and “keep pushing” as an athlete.
“I’m aware that I won’t be supported by everyone, but I hope people can keep an open mind and maybe look at my performance in a larger context,” she told stuff .co.nz.