New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard was confirmed as the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the Olympic Games Monday when Kiwi officials named her in the squad for Tokyo next month.
New Zealand Olympic Committee chief Kereyn Smith said Hubbard, 43 -- who was born male but transitioned to female in her 30s -- had met all the qualification criteria 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," Smith said in a statement.
Hubbard, who also competed as a male, became eligible to lift as a woman after showing testosterone levels below the threshold required by the International Olympic Committee.
She will contest the women's +87kg category in Tokyo, an event in which she is currently ranked 16th in the world.
Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand President Richie Patterson said Hubbard has worked hard to come back from as potentially career-ending elbow injury suffered at the 2018 Commonwealth 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," he said.
Current IOC rules state a trans woman can compete provided her testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per litre, a criteria Hubbard meets.
But critics say she has numerous physical advantages from growing up male that make her presence in the competition unfair for female-born athletes.
Hubbard, an intensely private person who avoids the media, did not address the gender issue in remarks released by the NZOC.
But she thanks the community for supporting her return from injury.
"I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders... your support, your encouragement, and your aroha (love) carried me through the darkness," she said. (AFP)
Banner photo by ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP