New Zealand Weightlifter Might Be First Transgender Athlete in Olympics

Written on 05/12/2021
Staff Columnist

A New Zealand weightlifter might become the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics – reports.

After the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) revised its qualifications due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Laurel Hubbard is now in the running for the Tokyo Games.

"A previous requirement to attend six competition events has been reduced to four due to the impact of COVID-19," said the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) in a statement.

Hubbard once competed in men's weightlifting competitions before her transition in 2013. In 2015, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) began allowing transgender athletes to compete as a woman, as long as their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per litre for a year before the first competition.

Despite the Olympics' decision, some scientists have disagreed with guidelines claiming there is not enough being done to manage the advantages of those who have gone through puberty as males.

However, transgender advocates say the process of transitioning decreases those advantages, adding that there is never truly an even playing field in sport.

The nomination for the NZOC's weightlifting competition will happen in June when it will have a list of athletes and determine if Hubbard is on it.

"Prior to that, all athletes must provide evidence of capability to finish in the top 16 at the Games, with the potential to achieve a top 8 placing," the NZOC explained.

Hubbard had gold medal wins in 2019 at the Pacific Games in Samoa. Outrage ensued when she beat Samoa's Commonwealth Games champion, Feagaiga Stowers.

In Australia, the weightlifting federation tried to block the 43-year-old from participating in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, but it was rejected.

The IOC said it is committed to inclusion, "Recognising that there is a perceived tension between fairness/safety and inclusion/non-discrimination... the IOC decided in October 2019 to work on a new comprehensive and rights-respecting approach to address the complexity of this issue."

The organization added that it will develop new guidance to ensure all athletes can engage in a fair and safe competition.

(Image Credit: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)