Olympics: Laurel Hubbard to become first transgender athlete to compete
New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard is set to become the first-ever transgender athlete to compete at an Olympics. She has been selected for the women's weightlifting team for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after the qualifying requirements were modified. Hubbard, who has earlier competed in men's events before coming out as transgender, will participate in the women's 87 KG weightlifting category. Here are further details.
Hubbard expresses her contentment
"I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders," Hubbard said in a statement issued by the New Zealand Olympic Committee on Monday.
How did Hubbard become eligible to compete?
Hubbard became eligible to compete when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2015 changed its rules. The new rules allowed transgender athletes to compete as a woman if their testosterone levels are below a certain level. Notably, 'testosterone' is a hormone that increases muscle mass. Several officials have rooted for Hubbard's inclusion at the Games despite the argument that she has un unfair advantage.
The decision draws criticism
Although Hubbard's participation is being celebrated, critics argue that it is still unfair for female-born athletes. They believe Hubbard will have a biological advantage, such as increased bone and muscle density. Recently, Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen, who is competing in the same category, said that the inclusion of Hubbard would be unfair for women and is "like a bad joke".
Hubbard backed by the New Zealand Government
Brushing aside the criticism, the Government of New Zealand and the country's top sporting body have backed Hubbard's inclusion for the upcoming Olympics. "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," New Zealand Olympic Committee chief executive Kereyn Smith said.
Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Can Hubbard win a medal?
Hubbard, who transitioned to female in 2012, is among the top-rated athletes in the world in her category. She owns a silver (2017 World Championships) and a gold medal (2019 Pacific Games). The 43-year-old has an opportunity to win a medal in Tokyo as the rules of International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) state there should be only one player per category from each country.
Hubbard has been a part of several controversies
In 2017, Hubbard became the first trans woman to win an international weightlifting title for New Zealand. Although Hubbard met eligibility requirements to compete, her win sparked a controversy. Several competitors claimed the competition was unfair. A year later, Australia's weightlifting federation tried to ban Hubbard in the 2018 Commonwealth Games. However, she had to withdraw from the competition due to an injury.