Laurel Hubbard, a transgender weightlifter, will become the first transgender athlete to compete in this summer’s Olympic games.
Hubbard, 43, will represent New Zealand after being selected to compete in the women’s event at the games, which will be held in Tokyo. Hubbard will compete in the super-heavyweight 87+kg category.
As Christian Headlines previously reported, Hubbard lived as a biological male for 35 years until transitioning to a female in 2012. Aside from being the first transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics, she will also be the oldest weightlifter to compete at the games.
“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders,” Hubbard said in a statement issued by the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) on Monday, Reuters reports.
NZOC chief Kereyn Smith said it was a “historic moment in sport and for the New Zealand team.”
“She is our first Olympian who has transitioned from male to female,” Smith told reporters.
“We do know that there are many questions about [the] fairness of transgender athletes competing in the Olympic Games, but I would like to take this opportunity to remind us all that Laurel has met all of the required criteria,” Smith said.
The New Zealand government also extended its support to Hubbard.
“We are proud of her as we are of all our athletes, and will be supporting her all the way,” Sports Minister Grant Robertson said.
Hubbard’s inclusion in the summer games adds to the continued debate over transgender athletes in female sports.
According to Save Women’s Sports Australasia, a group opposed to transgender women competing in women’s sports, Hubbard’s selection by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was the result of a “flawed policy.”
Katherine Deves, the group’s co-founder, told Reuters TV, “Males do have a performance advantage that is based on their biological sex.”
“They outperform us on every single metric – speed, stamina, strength,” she added. “Picking testosterone is a red herring … We are forgetting about the anatomy, the faster twitch muscle, the bigger organs.”
Meanwhile, Samoa Weightlifting Federation President, Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork, likened Hubbard’s selection to “doping.”
“Women have to have a level playing field because I still think that this is almost similar, almost like a case of someone else taking drugs, taking doping and there’s an unfair playing field there,” Wallwork told Reuters. “It is an issue and a very sensitive issue that needs to be addressed, he added.
“And I think all the women should stand up and address it … and take a strong case to the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and try to turn this around,” Wallwork concluded.
The IOC has often reiterated its commitment to inclusion in the Olympic games. Still, it will also review its guidelines to take into account the “perceived tension between fairness/safety and inclusion/non-discrimination.”
Hubbard has been eligible to compete at Olympics since 2015, after the IOC updated its guidelines to allow any transgender athlete to compete as a woman as long as their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least one full year before competing.
In 2019, Hubbard won a gold medal in the Pacific Games and finished in sixth place at the 2019 World Championships. Several years earlier, she won 2nd place in the 2017 World Championships.
Hubbard may not be the only transgender athlete to compete at the Tokyo games. Transgender BMX rider Chelsea Wolfe was named as an alternative to compete on the United States team.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Scott Barbour/Stringer
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.