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Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard is a step closer to making the New Zealand Olympic team that will compete at the Tokyo Games, thanks to new COVID rules instituted by the International Olympic Committee.
Hubbard, 43, is currently ranked No. 17 in the world and is in line, according to New Zealand’s Olympic Committee, to receive a spot on the team because of that ranking. To keep the number of athletes down due to COVID, the Tokyo Games will allocate one athlete per weightlifting discipline, per country. On top of that, the weightlifter must have the “capability to finish in the top 16 at the Games, with the potential to achieve a top-eight placing,” according to a report from the BBC.
A silver medalist at the 2017 world championships, Hubbard was sixth at the 2019 world championships before suffering a severe injury. Add it all up and New Zealand is very likely to have her compete in the 87kg-plus super heavyweight competition in Tokyo.
That would make Laurel Hubbard the first transgender Olympian — ever — after living as a man for 35 years. In 2017, Hubbard was competing as a woman when she beat Samoan female Iuniarra Sipaia at an Australian weightlifting competition. Sipaia didn’t hold back when asked about the situation.
“I felt that it was unfair because all in all, Laurel is still a male even though he already had an operation to change his gender,” Sipaia said at the time.
“It only changed the physical side but her emotions, her strength and everything is still a male.
“So I felt that it was unfair because we all know a woman’s strength is nowhere near a male’s strength no matter how hard we train.”
Sipaia, who spent part of 2020 trying to come back from an injury, could find herself in yet another showdown with Hubbard in Tokyo with an Olympic medal on the line. The IOC ruled long ago that transgender athletes can compete in the Games. Now we’re on the cusp of it happening.