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IWF insider: Trans weightlifter Laurel Hubbard is a go for Tokyo

The New Zealander would be the first transgender athlete to compete in an Olympic Games.

Weightlifting - Commonwealth Games Day 5
Laurel Hubbard, shown here at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, is reported to have clinched a spot in this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, according to a report.
Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard has been lauded and pillared as a transgender athlete seeking the highest levels of their sport. According to a report Wednesday, she is on track to reach a career peak and score a historic first.

An International Weightlifting Federation insider confirmed to The Guardian that Hubbard would automatically qualify for a bid in the Olympics under revised qualifying rules approved by the International Olympic Committee. The revisions were made because of a disruption in event schedules last year caused by the Covid-19 pandemic which forced a number of qualifying competitions to be canceled.

Hubbard has not been officially named to New Zealand’s Olympic team as of yet; competing teams have until July 5th to declare their roster. The insider told the paper Hubbard was assured of a place because of the changes and how they affected the qualifying standings, provided she’s fit to compete.

Laurel Hubbard Portrait Session
In 2017, Hubbard brought home two silver medals at the IWF World Championships becoming the first transgender athlete to reach a world championship podium in an elite-level Olympic sport.
Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Should Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand select Hubbard, the 43-year-old would have the opportunity to add to an impressive list of accomplishments as a super heavyweight. In 2017, Hubbard earned two silver medals in finishing behind American standout Sarah Robles, who is in the mix to be on Team USA for Tokyo.

Hubbard suffered an elbow injury at the 2018 Commonwealth Games which forced her out of the competition while leading. She rallied back to return to IWF Worlds in 2019, where she was ranked 6th overall, and won gold at the Pacific Games that year while defeating the 2018 Commonwealth Games champion Feagaiga Stowers of Samoa. Her performance at the Pacific Games reignited the complaints against Hubbard being allowed to compete, even though she is fully eligible according to IWF regulations, which match the IOC standard regulation. The IOC mandates that transgender athletes competing in women’s sports must maintain serum testosterone levels under 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months prior to competition and maintain that level.

It’s anticipated those testosterone standards will be reduced to a lower level following the Summer Games. Previous attempts to lower the qualifying numbers failed because of a lack of consensus among scientists.

Should she step into the lifting arena at Tokyo International Forum, the venue for the weightlifting competitions, Hubbard would not only be the first out trans athlete but also the oldest competitor in the sport at the Summer Olympics. According to the current qualifying charts cited by The Guardian, she would also be in striking distance of earning medals. Their qualifying efforts currently place her 4th among 14 confirmed qualifiers for the women’s 87 kg-plus super heavyweight class.

MANAGING EDITOR’S NOTE: I have restored the pronouns for Laurel Hubbard in this story to “she,” “her” and “hers” after more closely reviewing a social media account claiming to be hers. Although we have not been able to verify anything with Hubbard herself despite our attempts (she closed her social media accounts after relentless, transphobic attacks), it seems clear this is a fake account, and the claim that Hubbard uses nonbinary pronouns appears to be false as well. The good news is that this Twitter account was deleted at some point today. The bad news is, in my effort to immediately respond to a suggestion that we got it wrong, and to avoid offense, I erred. I did so in support of our commitment to validating nonbinary athletes, and showing that through our coverage. What is most important to you, our readers, is that we strive not for perfection but for accuracy and for transparency, even if the path to getting it right sometimes means along the way we make mistakes. We will always admit when we do, just as I am doing now. Thank you.