Transgender Weightlifter Confirmed as 'Female' Competitor in Tokyo Olympics
Laurel Hubbard shreds biological females to qualify for women’s super-heavyweight divisi
A transgender weightlifter from New Zealand has been confirmed as the first trans athlete to compete in the Olympic games after shredding biological females during qualifiers.
On Monday, the New Zealand Olympic Committee announced that biological male Laurel Hubbard will compete in the women's super-heavyweight category at the upcoming Games in Tokyo on July 23.
Hubbard, who previously competed in men's events as Gavin Hubbard with little success before becoming a "champion female" lifter, crushed the competition during qualifying sessions by lifting 628 pounds in two lifts.
"I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders," 43-year-old Hubbard said in a statement, according to the BBC.
In 2015, the International Olympic Committee changed its rules to allow transgender athletes to compete as long as their testosterone level is below a certain level and maintained for a year.
However, the determining criteria — a maximum reading of 10 nanomoles per liter of testosterone — is as least five times more than a biological woman.
Some critics insist that Hubbard, who "transitioned" eight years ago, will still have an unfair advantage when competing in the women’s super heavyweight category in August.
The Guardian, citing IOC guidelines, reported that athletes who transition from male to female are allowed to compete in events without surgically removing their testes.
The paper reported that some recent studies show power gained during male puberty can last.
Hubbard lifted 628 pounds in two lifts to qualify in the women’s super-heavyweight division.
Competing as a woman, Hubbard won a silver medal at the 2017 World Championships and gold in the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa.
Hubbard competed at the 2018 Commonwealth Games but sustained a serious injury that set back her career.
New Zealand Olympic Committee chief executive Kereyn Smith said it’s clear Hubbard has met all the criteria to compete in Tokyo.
"We acknowledge that gender identity in sport is a highly sensitive and complex issue requiring a balance between human rights and fairness on the field of play," Smith said.
"As the New Zealand Team, we have a strong culture of manaaki (hospitality) and inclusion and respect for all."
Belgium’s Anna Vanbellinghen, who will likely compete against Hubbard, said the New Zealander’s presence would be "like a bad joke" for women competitors.
"Life-changing opportunities are missed for some athletes — medals and Olympic qualifications — and we are powerless," Vanbellinghen warned.
"Of course, this debate is taking place in a broader context of discrimination against transgender people and that is why the question is never free of ideology."