Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard Set to Become First Transgender Athlete to Compete at Olympics

New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will represent the LGBTQ+ community in a big way this summer: She will be the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics.

By Lindsay Weinberg Jun 21, 2021 8:20 PMTags
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The upcoming Tokyo Olympics will mark a major milestone for the LGBTQ+ community. 

Laurel Hubbard, a New Zealand weightlifter, will be the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics, according to Reuters, via NBC News.

Her home country selected her to represent them in the women's event, and she will compete in the super-heavyweight 87-kg category. Reuters also reports Laurel will be the oldest lifter at the Tokyo games at age 43. 

On Monday, June 21, Laurel issued a statement via the New Zealand Olympic Committee, reading, "I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders."

She has previously competed in men's weightlifting competitions, before she transitioned in 2013, per the outlet. 

Two years later, the International Olympic Committee issued guidelines for allowing transgender athletes to participate in the games. It states that those who transition from male to female are eligible to compete in female categories if her total testosterone level in serum has been below 10 nmol/L for at least 12 months prior to her first competition, and it must remain below that threshold throughout the competition.

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"It is necessary to ensure insofar as possible that trans athletes are not excluded from the opportunity to participate in sporting competition," the IOC wrote in 2015 when writing its guidelines of inclusivity. 

Per the Gay Times, Laurel gave her thoughts about the evolving rules in sports in 2015. "I think even 10 years ago the world perhaps wasn't ready for an athlete like myself—and perhaps it is not ready now," she said. "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."

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In 2018, the Kiwi competed in the Women's +90kg weightlifting final during the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, where she was also the first transgender athlete to partake. Laurel had to withdraw after injuring her elbow at the time. Per the organization's website, she shared, "We can always go back over these things in our heads, but the truth is that unless we try to be the best person we can be, the best athlete, then really we are not being true to sport."

She added, "Medals are only one measure of performance. I am obviously unhappy I had to withdraw, but I gave it everything I had and I can sleep well knowing that."

Watch the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics on NBC on Friday, July 23. 

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