Weightlifter Praised For Becoming First Transgender Athlete To Compete At The Olympics
New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard has been praised for becoming the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics.
Hubbard is a 43-year-old weightlifter who has made history by being the first transgender athlete to be selected for the Olympic games. She will compete in the super-heavyweight 87kg category in the Tokyo Games, and has become available for selection after qualifying requirements were altered.
The selection of Hubbard marks a return to the sport after last competing in 2013 before transitioning.
On the back of the selection, Hubbard said in a statement released by the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC), ‘I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders.’
The weightlifter has been eligible for selection for the Olympic games since 2015 when rules were changed to enable transgender athletes to compete as long as their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months before their first competition.
The selection has also been praised by sporting boards across New Zealand.
As per Reuters, the Minister for Sport and Recreation Grant Robertson said:
Laurel is a member of New Zealand’s Olympic team. We are proud of her as we are of all our athletes, and will be supporting her all the way.
Despite the support shown for Hubbard, there have been worries about the weightlifter’s inclusion. Some scientists have pointed to an advantage for those who have gone through puberty as a male as they typically have greater bone and muscle density.
However, advocates of transgender inclusion have stated that the process of transition decreases these advantages significantly. Others have noted that there is always a disparity between athletes.
Among those who are against Hubbard’s inclusion are Save Women’s Sport Australasia, an advocacy group for women athletes. The group told Reuters:
It is flawed policy from the IOC that has allowed the selection of a 43-year-old biological male who identifies as a woman to compete in the female category.
Potential opponents have also criticised the decision. Speaking to insidethegames, Belgian weightlifter, Anna Vanbellinghen said:
First off, I would like to stress that I fully support the transgender community, and that what I’m about to say doesn’t come from a place of rejection of this athlete’s identity […] However, anyone that has trained weightlifting at a high level knows this to be true in their bones: this particular situation is unfair to the sport and to the athletes.
I understand that for sports authorities nothing is as simple as following your common sense and that there are a lot of impracticalities when studying such a rare phenomenon, but for athletes, the whole thing feels like a bad joke.
After much delay, the Tokyo Games are expected to commence on July 16, where Hubbard will compete in the super-heavyweight 87kg category.
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