Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard from New Zealand is set to become the first transgender athlete to partake in the Olympic Games.
While not officially confirmed in the team as of yet, insider sources from the International Weightlifting Federation told The Guardianyesterday that the 43 year old is expected to compete in Tokyo due to Coronavirus inflicted modification of qualifying rules.
Such guidelines came into force following competition cancellations at the hands of the pandemic, and therefore the normal process of three six month stages of six events (with one result from each of the 3 phases being taken into account) were abandoned.
Athletes now must only count one event from the first two chapters which originated in late 2018, and also any other two results since the qualification proceedings began.
These developments mean Hubbard will become the first transgender Olympic competitor and will contest at the 87kg-plus super heavyweight division. There she is predicted to be in medal contention as she currently ranks 16th in the world, with at least 6 places above her anticipated to be vacant, owing to the regulation of one athlete per category.
With the deadline for the New Zealand Olympic Committee team announcements fast approaching on the 5th of June, Hubbard’s involvement is sure to spark controversy and debate in the sporting world.
On the matter however the NZOC are keen to perpetuate the spirit of acceptance.
"The New Zealand Team has a strong culture of manaaki and inclusion and respect for all. We look forward to supporting all athletes selected to the New Zealand Team in Tokyo 2020," they said on statement on Thursday.
Before transitioning in 2013 Hubbard had challenged in domestic men’s weightlifting competitions but never at international level. Since then she has won a silver medal at the 2017 world championships and appeared at multiple Commonwealth and Pacific Games, but sustained an elbow injury in 2018 that almost ended her career.
She became eligible for Olympic entry in 2015 when the IOC declared new codes which allowed athletes who transitioned from male to female to participate in the women’s category if their testosterone levels were under 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months before competition.
Facing backlash at many events she has engaged in in the past, the Kiwi native is no stranger to combative attitudes and disputes.
Australia’s weightlifting organisation attempted to block her participation in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, while rival competitors and recent studies have all continue to pose questions as to the possibility of her potential advantage despite being within IOC precautions.
Speaking after medalling in 2017 Hubbard talked of the “Stockholm consensus” rules.
“I think even 10 years ago the world perhaps wasn’t ready for an athlete like myself – and perhaps it is not ready now. But I got the sense at least that people were willing to consider me for these competitions and it seemed like the right time to put the boots on and hit the platform” she said.
As only three qualification events remain before the system closes on May 31st, the Games this summer are certain to be a major talking point for all.