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Trans weightlifter set to make Olympics history as first out transgender competitor

Josh Milton May 6, 2021
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Laurel Hubbard holds weights above her head

Laurel Hubbard. (Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard is set to make history as the first out trans athlete to compete in the Olympics at the Tokyo games after qualifying rules were revised.

While Hubbard has not been officially announced for the New Zealand team, IWF insiders confirmed to The Guardian that she’s almost certain to be given a spot in the women’s super heavyweight category.

Hubbard, a 43-year-old New Zealand weightlifter, would become one of the first openly trans Olympic athletes.

Currently 16th in world rankings and having won silver at the 2017 world championships, she is already being tipped for a medal.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) confirmed that the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF), the main governing body of Olympic-level weightlifting, has tweaked its qualification process due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The NZOC can confirm that revised International Federation qualification systems are very likely to see a number of New Zealand weightlifters, including Commonwealth Games transgender athlete Laurel Hubbard, allocated an IF quota spot for Tokyo 2020,” the committee said in a statement according to Sky News.

“A previous requirement to attend six competition events has been reduced to four due to the impact of COVID-19.”

New Zealand’s Laurel Hubbard competes during the women’s +90kg weightlifting final at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. (ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Weightlifting teams do not have to be named until 5 July, the insider stressed. The NZOC said it expects to nominate and select the country’s team in June.

“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,” it added.

The IWF rejigged its qualification rules after various championship competitions were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, shooting holes in the way the federation typically ranks who is able to compete in the games.

Hubbard has been eligible to compete in the games since 2015 when the International Olympic Committee issued guidelines on trans athletes.

The committee, which acts as the guardian of the games, states that trans women can compete as long as their testosterone levels in serum were below 10 nanomoles per litre for one year.

International Olympic Committee officials hoped to redraw the framework following consultations from scientists and advocates in 2019, but the plan was postponed to after the games to avoid throwing a wrench in the qualifiers.

Along with Hubbard and the 11,000 cisgender athletes set to take part in the Toyko Games, two more trans athletes are hoping to qualify for the games: BMX freestyle rider Chelsea Wolfe of the US and Brazilian volleyball player Tifanny Abreu.

Related topics: olympics, transgender athletes

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