Much before Hubbard hits tracks in Olympics, Kiwi weightlifter Laurel Hubbard hogged the limelights in the international press for scripting history for competing in the Tokyo Olympics as the first transgender athlete.
Hubbard has been named among five weightlifting athletes selected to the New Zealand Team. Hubbard, who won silver at the 2017 world championships and represented New Zealand at the 2018 Commonwealth Games before suffering a serious injury in competition, will likely become the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics.
Her inclusion has set social media handles ablaze with both for and against reactions.
The NZ Herald writes while she will be the oldest weightlifter at the Games, she will also be a genuine medal hopeful with her qualifying lifts ranking her at fourth out of the 14 qualifiers in the 87kg-plus category.
SKY News wrote: headlined its news copy –Laurel Hubbard: New Zealand weightlifter becomes first transgender athlete picked for Olympic Games. Laurel Hubbard will compete in the women’s super-heavyweight division, aged 43 – the oldest weightlifter at the games.
Hubbard’s selection has generated some debate and controversy, but she has met all of the requirements set by the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) regulations for trans athletes and fair competition.
Under the policy, trans athletes are eligible to compete in the female category by declaring their gender identity as female and demonstrating a total testosterone level below a specific measurement for at least 12 months prior to their first competition. The IOC policy also states: “The overriding sporting objective is and remains the guarantee of fair competition.”
NPR Said: New Zealand Weightlifter Will Be The First Openly Trans Competitor At The Olympics.
NBC News wrote: New Zealand weightlifter to become 1st transgender athlete to compete at Olympics
The NZ official announcement says: Five weightlifting athletes have been selected to the New Zealand Team for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
The weightlifting team is Kanah Andrews-Nahu (women’s -87kg), Laurel Hubbard (women’s +87kg), Megan Signal (women’s -76kg), David Liti (men’s +109kg), and Cameron McTaggart (men’s -81kg)
Each of the athletes will make their Olympic debut in Tokyo but bring with them significant international experience.
Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand (OWNZ) President Richie Patterson acknowledged the achievements of the selected lifters. “These athletes have all worked extremely hard to get to this point. It’s huge for New Zealand to have five athletes selected, this is our biggest ever Olympic weightlifting team and we’re really looking forward to seeing what they can do in Tokyo,” he said.
New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) CEO Kereyn Smith extended her congratulations to the athletes.
“Well done on your selection to the New Zealand Team for Tokyo 2020,” said Smith.
“We know a huge amount of work has gone into getting you to this point. We’d like to wish you all the best for the rest of your preparation, and we look forward to seeing you compete in just over a month’s time.”
Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, David Liti says making the Olympic team is a dream come true.
“A huge amount of hard work, tears, blood, sweat, and dedication has gone into getting me here and it’s a privilege to represent my family, country, and heritage,” said the 24-year-old.
“I can’t wait to get there and compete, I’ve been working towards this moment for so long it’s hard to believe it’s almost here.”
The South Auckland lifter is coached by Tina Ball and has a personal best of a 182kg snatch and 232kg clean and jerk, for a 414kg total.
Fellow Aucklander, Kanah Andrews-Nahu is regarded as the future face of weightlifting in New Zealand and will be gaining valuable Games experience at Tokyo ahead of what is expected to be an exciting career.
The 20-year-old began lifting as a teenager after going to a crossfit class with her mum. Since then she’s broken almost 200 New Zealand weightlifting records, won a bronze medal at the Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games, and won gold at IWF World Junior Championships (New Zealand’s first ever world lifting gold).
“I feel very honored to be selected to my first Olympic team,” said Andrews-Nahu.
“This has been a dream of mine for a long time and I’m really looking forward to wearing the silver fern and competing at the Olympic level.”
Andrews-Nahu trains alongside Olympic teammate Cameron McTaggart with the pair coached by Richie Patterson.
McTaggart holds six New Zealand records, as well as two Oceania records in the 81kg class – 169kg in the clean and jerk, and a 310kg total.
McTaggart and Andrews-Nahu will be joined by their Samoa 2019 Pacific Games teammate 31-year-old Megan Signal, who is coached by Simon Kent.
The East-Tamaki lifter came to weightlifting late in life and only began competing in her mid-20s. Since then, she’s gone from strength to strength and is the current holder of seven NZ records and two Oceania records.
Laurel Hubbard is heading for her first Olympic Games having made a remarkable come-back to her sport following a significant injury in 2018.
The lifter, who hails from Auckland, returned to competition in 2019 and performed strongly throughout the rest of the year and into 2020. Hubbard has been confirmed eligible having met the IWF, IOC and NZOC eligibility criteria, including IWF eligibility criteria for athletes who transition from male to female based on IOC Consensus Statement guidelines.
On hearing of her selection, Hubbard highlighted the challenges she had faced in her journey to the Olympic Games. Thanking her supporters, she also reflected on the strength of community that has been evident during the Covid-19 Pandemic.
“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders,” said Hubbard.
“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 carried me through the darkness.
“The last eighteen months has shown us all that there is strength in kinship, in community, and in working together towards a common purpose. The mana of the silver fern comes from all of you and I will wear it with pride.”
NZOC CEO Kereyn Smith says Hubbard will be welcomed to the New Zealand Team.
“As well as being among the world’s best for her event, Laurel has met the IWF eligibility criteria including those based on IOC Consensus Statement guidelines for transgender athletes. 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.
“As the New Zealand Team, we have a strong culture of manaaki and inclusion and respect for all. We are committed to supporting all eligible New Zealand athletes and ensuring their mental and physical wellbeing, along with their high-performance needs, while preparing for and competing at the Olympic Games are met.”
Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand President Richie Patterson says Hubbard has worked extremely hard to qualify for the Olympic Games.
“Laurel has shown grit and perseverance in her return from a significant injury and overcoming the challenges in building back confidence on the competition platform,” said Patterson.
“Laurel is an astute student of the sport and technically very good with the lifts. We look forward to supporting her in her final preparations towards Tokyo.”
The selection of the weightlifters takes the total number of athletes selected to the New Zealand Team to 133.
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