Laurel Hubbard, a New Zealand weightlifter, will make history at the Tokyo Olympics in July. Hubbard, who transitioned from a man to woman in 2012 and did not compete in international weightlifting until transitioning, will become the first transgender athlete to ever compete at the Olympics.
Hubbard, 43, is in the women's super heavyweight 87kg-plus category. Following the selection announcement, Hubbard explained how grateful she is for the opportunity and support she has received -- especially after suffering a serious injury in 2018.
"I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders," she said, according to The Guardian. "When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth Games three years ago, I was advised that my sporting career had likely reached its end. But your support, your encouragement, and your 'aroha' [affection] carried me through the darkness."
She will be able to participate in the Games due to a change in the International Olympic Committee's transgender guidelines that took place in 2015. That change states that athletes who transition from male to female can compete in the women's category as long as their total testosterone level in serum is less than 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months.
"We acknowledge that gender identity in sport is a highly sensitive and complex issue requiring a balance between human rights and fairness on the field of play," New Zealand Olympic Committee chief executive Kereyn Smith commented, but said Hubbard clearly met the criteria and was the right person to be selected for the team.
Not everyone agrees with the decision to allow Hubbard to participate in women's events.
Belgian super-heavyweight weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen, a rival of Hubbard, said earlier this year that while she supports the transgender community, she does not think it's fair to have Hubbard compete.
"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." Vanbellinghen said.
In 2017 Hubbard won silver at the women's world championships.