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New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard to become first transgender Olympian

Transgender athlete Laurel Hubbard will make history when she competes on the New Zealand weightlifting team at the Olympics this summer in Tokyo. Photo by Mike Nelson/EPA-EFE
Transgender athlete Laurel Hubbard will make history when she competes on the New Zealand weightlifting team at the Olympics this summer in Tokyo. Photo by Mike Nelson/EPA-EFE

June 21 (UPI) -- Laurel Hubbard will make history this summer as the first transgender athlete to compete in an Olympic Games. Hubbard qualified for a spot on New Zealand's weightlifting team, the country's Olympic committee said Monday.

The committee selected Hubbard to compete in the women's 87-kilogram category. New Zealand selected David Liti, Kanah Andrews-Nahu, Cameron McTaggart and Megan Signal as the other competitors for the five-member team.

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"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 news release. "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 [love] carried me through the darkness."

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Hubbard, 43, netted 628 pounds in two separate lifts to qualify for the team. The Summer Games Olympic weightlifting competitions run from July 24 through Aug. 4 in Tokyo.

Hubbard qualified for the postponed Summer Games in May, which led to criticism from fellow athletes about if she should be allowed to compete. Hubbard competed in men's weightlifting competitions before she transitioned in 2013.



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"The last 18 months has shown us all that there is strength in kinship, in community, and in working together toward a common purpose," Hubbard said.

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The International Olympic Committee issued new guidelines in 2015, which allowed for transgender athletes to compete in the Olympics as women, depending on their testosterone levels.

"As well as being among the world's best for her event, Laurel has met the International Weightlifting Federation eligibility criteria including those based on IOC Consensus Statement guidelines for transgender athletes," New Zealand Olympic Committee CEO Kereyn Smith said.

"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.

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"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."

Andrews-Nahu also will compete in the women's 87-kg. category. Signal will compete in the women's 76-kg. category. Liti and McTaggart will compete in the men's 109- and 81-kg categories, respectively.

Fellow transgender athlete Chelsea Wolfe also will be in Tokyo this summer as an alternate on the United States BMX freestyle team. She will compete in the Summer Games if Hannah Roberts or Perris Benegas drop out of the competition.

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