Kiwi lifter is first transgender Olympian
New Zealand Olympic Committee chief Kereyn Smith said Hubbard, 43—who was born male but transitioned to female in her 30s—met all the qualification criteria for transgender athletes. “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 in a statement. “As the New Zealand team, we have a strong culture of manaaki (caring) and inclusion and respect for all.” Hubbard, who also competed as a male, became eligible to lift as a woman after showing testosterone levels below the threshold required by the International Olympic Committee. She will contest the women’s +87kg category in Tokyo, an event in which she is currently ranked 16th in the world. Former New Zealand weightlifter Tracey Lambrechs, who was forced to drop a division to make the 2018 Commonwealth Games because Hubbard was selected in her preferred event, said the selection was unfair. Lambrechs, now retired, said the concerns of female-born weightlifters had been ignored by officials. “Everyone’s just shut up and worried about how they’ll be viewed in regards to talking out about transgender athletes,” she told Radio New Zealand. Lambrechs said if Hubbard made the podium in her event then another medal of the same colour should be awarded to the athlete who placed after her. “If Laurel was to win gold then the next biological female should also win gold... then Laurel would be an Olympic champion as a transgender and then we would have our female athlete as an Olympic champion as well,” she said. Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand president Richie Patterson praised Hubbard for coming back from a potentially career-ending elbow injury suffered at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. “Laurel has shown grit and perseverance in her return from a significant injury and overcoming the challenges in building back confidence on the competition platform,” he said.