Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard became the first openly transgender athlete ever selected to compete in the Olympics. The 43-year-old will soon play in Tokyo for the New Zealand women’s team.
“I am grateful and humbled for the kindness and support given to me by so many New Zealanders,” Hubbard said in a statement. She is considered one of the favorites in the super heavyweight category (over 87 kilos).
Hubbard’s entry into the female category sparks debate over International Olympic Committee (IOC) rules on transgender people. For example, trans women who are born boys must have been on hormone therapy for 12 months. In addition, their testosterone level should not exceed ten nanomoles per liter.
Critics argue that there is a physical benefit nonetheless. A Swedish scientist recently told NOS that there is no scientific basis for the current IOC rules and that they could lead to unfair situations for athletes. The IOC denies it.
Until 2013, Hubbard competed as a weightlifter in the men’s category. After her gender change, she found success as a female athlete. Some of his opponents openly criticized him. Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen, for example, called Hubbard’s participation unfair to women. She compared it to “a bad joke”.
“We recognize that gender identity in sport is a very sensitive and complex issue that requires a balance between human rights and fairness on the playing field,” said Kereyn Smith, President of the Olympic Committee. New Zealanders, in a statement. “As a New Zealand team, we have a strong culture of inclusion and respect for all.”
Check out images of Hubbard in action from last year here: