Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will shed her past when she competes in Tokyo

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Laurel Hubbard I Image: AP

Tokyo: Laurel Hubbard hefted 628 pounds (285 kilograms) in two lifts on the way to qualifying in the women’s super-heavyweight division for the Tokyo Olympics. Today, Hubbard will be able to keep her past away, all her pain and dimay as she compete in +87kg category, and makes her Olympic debut in Tokyo. By this process, Hubbard will become the first openly transgender female athlete to compete at an Olympics event.

Hubbard was among the five weightlifters in New Zealand's team for Tokyo. At 43, she will also be the oldest weightlifter at the games. 2 for women 87 kilograms (192 pounds) and over. Hubbard won a silver medal at the 2017 world championships and gold in the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa. She competed at the 2018 Commonwealth Games but sustained a serious injury that set back her career.

“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders,” Hubbard said in a statement. “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 (love) 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."

The additional burden Hubbard has had to carry is that her efforts have made her a flashpoint in the debate around the fairness of trans athletes competing in women’s events. She has faced anger, scorn and ridicule, and has been directly criticized by some opponents.

Competing as Gavin Hubbard, her birth name, Hubbard set national records in junior competition and had a best, combined snatch and clean and jerk total of 300 kilograms (661 pounds). Hubbard transitioned eight years ago at the age of 35. She has since met all of the requirements of the International Olympic Committee’s regulations for trans athletes and fair competition.

The IOC policy specifies conditions under which those who transition from male to female are eligible to compete in the female category. Among them is that the athlete has declared that her gender identity is female and that the declaration cannot be changed, for sporting purposes, for a minimum of four years.

The athlete must also demonstrate that her total testosterone level is below a specific measurement for at least 12 months prior to her first competition. Hubbard met all those standards.

The IOC policy also states: “the overriding sporting objective is and remains the guarantee of fair competition.”

Yet some within the weightlifting community argue the policy does not guarantee fair competition. The determining criteria — a maximum reading of 10 nanomoles per liter of testosterone — is as least five times more than a biological woman.

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