Weightlifter To Make History As First Openly Trans Person To Compete at Olympics

New Zealander Laurel Hubbard will compete in the weightlifting competition in Tokyo.
Weightlifter To Make History As First Openly Trans Person To Compete in Olympics
Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand competes in the Women's +90kg Final during the Weightlifting on day five of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games at Carrara Sports and Leisure Centre on April 9, 2018 on the Gold Coast, Australia. Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Laurel Hubbard will become the first transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics after successfully qualifying and fulfilling the organisation’s criteria for trans athletes ahead of the Tokyo Games this summer. 

Transgender athletes have been allowed to compete in the Olympics since 2004, but up until now there has never been an openly transgender competitor. 

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Hubbard, who will compete in the super-heavyweight 87-kg category, previously competed in the men’s weightlifting before her transition in 2013. 

The 43-year-old has met all the biological requirements for trans athletes as defined by the International Olympic Committee – a subject that has drawn controversy over the years. Athletes must have undergone gender reassignment surgery, be legally recognised in their country as their chosen gender, and have had hormone therapy for approximately two years. They must also have tests to measure their hormone levels before competing.

“As well as being among the world’s best for her event, Laurel has met the IWF [International Weightlifting Federation] eligibility criteria including those based on IOC Consensus Statement guidelines for transgender athletes,” New Zealand Olympic Committee chief Kereyn Smith said in a statement. “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.” 

Hubbard, who rarely makes statements to the media, said: “I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders.”

“The last eighteen months has shown us all that there is strength in kinship, in community, and in working together towards a common purpose. The mana of the silver fern comes from all of you and I will wear it with pride.”

Liz Ward, director of programmes at LGBTQ rights charity Stonewall, said: ‘We’re so pleased to see Laurel Hubbard heading to Tokyo to compete in the Olympics. Sport has an unparalleled ability to bring people together, and the Olympic Games are an incredible moment for athletes and spectators alike to celebrate incredible achievements and see the best talents represented.

“Seeing Laurel Hubbard compete at this level will help other trans people know that there is a place for them in whatever future they want, and we wish her the best at the games later this summer.”