Sport

Trans Olympic weightlifter Laurel Hubbard named ‘sportswoman of the year’

Lily Wakefield October 3, 2021
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Laurel Hubbard competes at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games

New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard competes in the women's +87kg group A final weightlifting event during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. (Getty/Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS)

Trans Olympic weightlifter Laurel Hubbard has been named “sportswoman of the year” by New Zealand’s University of Otago.

The university’s Blues awards, which celebrate sporting success, have been running since 1908, but according to the Otago Daily TimesHubbard is the first trans winner in history.

The weightlifter, who made history in August when she became the first ever trans woman to compete at the Olympics, said in a statement that she was “grateful for all of the support and kindness received from the teaching staff and students at Otago University”.

She added: “It is not possible for athletes to complete at the Olympic level without the encouragement and aroha of friends, family and supporters.

“This award belongs to everyone who has been part of my Olympic journey.”

Michaela Waite-Harvey, president of the Otago University Students’ Association, added: “We could think of no-one more worthy of sportswoman of the year than Laurel Hubbard who represented Otago and New Zealand incredibly well at this year’s Tokyo Olympics.”

Despite becoming a history-making athlete, Laurel Hubbard endured relentless abuse during the Olympics

Just three years after an injury she was told could be career-ending, in August, 2021, Laurel Hubbard became the first openly trans woman to compete at the Olympics, representing New Zealand in the +87kg women’s event.

But despite her history-making achievements, Hubbard was bombarded with transphobic abuse by the media.

During the Olympics, many outlets used Hubbard competing as an opportunity to argue that trans women shouldn’t be allowed to compete in professional sports, while others misgendered and deadnamed her, and ran demeaning articles focusing on her transition.

Hubbard is famously shy, but in a rare 2017 interview with Stuff, she discussed how she handles the barrage of criticism.

She said: “All you can do is focus on the task at hand and if you keep doing that it will get you through.

“I’m mindful I won’t be supported by everyone but I hope that people can keep an open mind and perhaps look at my performance in a broader context.

“Perhaps the fact that it has taken so long for someone like myself to come through indicates that some of the problems that people are suggesting aren’t what they might seem.”

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