New Zealand weightlifter to become first openly transgender athlete to compete at Olympics

Laurel Hubbard, a transgender weightlifter from New Zealand, has been selected by her country for the women’s event at the Tokyo Olympics, bringing forth a decision met with opposition and questions of fair competition.

Hubbard, born a biological male named Gavin Hubbard, went through with the transition to female in 2013 at the age of 35. Hubbard also competed in men’s weightlifting prior to transitioning. Hubbard competed against men until 2001 at age 23 before stopping weightlifting all together. Hubbard was able to set national records in the junior competition and had a best snatch and clean and jerk total of 300 kg (661 lbs). In 2017, Hubbard was able to compete in the women’s division at the top level. Hubbard is now among some the best weightlifters in the world for her division. She is also the oldest qualifier in her division at 43 (Independent).

In 2015 the International Olympics Committee (IOC) issued guidelines allowing transgender athletes to compete. Those who transition from male to female are able to compete as a female under two conditions. One is the athlete must declare her gender identity as female and cannot be changed, for sports purposes, for at least four years. Second, a female transgender must provide their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months before the first competition. Hubbard meets the qualifications for transgender athletes (Daily Mail).

Many transgender athletes have spoken out in support of Hubbard as well as the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC). The NZOC CEO Kereyn Smith states, “As the New Zealand team, we have a strong culture of manaaki (hospitality) and inclusion and respect for all” (AP). However, Hubbard’s career and qualifications have not been met without opposition. Hubbard’s gold medals won at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa was met by outrage by the host nation. The Samoan weightlifting boss felt her selection to the Olympics was like letting athletes dope and would cost nations, such as Samoa, a medal (Al Jazeera).

Anna Vanbellinghen, a Belgian weightlifter said allowing Hubbard to compete in the Tokyo Olympics was unfair to women and “like a bad joke” (Reuters). Vanbellinghen is set to compete against Hubbard in the Tokyo games. Hubbard will compete in the super-heavy weight 192 lbs (87 kg) and over category and is favored to receive a medal in her category. If that is the case, Hubbard would break the record for oldest female Olympic lifter by more than four years (




Leave a Reply