Laurel Hubbard finds support from New Zealand prime minister, Olympic opponent after making history
23rd June 2021

New Zealand under fire for choosing transgender woman to compete on Olympic team

What is the impact of gender identity policy on women’s sports? Rep. Robin Smith, co-sponsor of Tennessee House Bill 3, with insight.

Laurel Hubbard made history Sunday when she became the first transgender athlete to make an Olympic team after qualifying for New Zealand’s weightlifting team.

While there was criticism around her standing in the women’s field, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Australian weightlifter Charisma Amoe-Tarrant offered support.

“All parties here have simply followed the rules,” Ardern said. “That’s the case for Laurel but also the team in New Zealand, they have followed the rules.”

Amoe-Tarrant won silver at the 2018 Commonwealth Games while representing Nauru and a bronze at the 2019 Pacific Games representing Australia. She will compete against Hubbard in the 87kg super heavyweight division at the Tokyo Games.

“I have so much respect for her and wish her and the other lifters the best and hope we can all come together and enjoy the Olympics,” Amoe-Tarrant said, via The Guardian.

New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said Hubbard has the country’s support, while New Zealand’s opposition leader, Judith Collins, added that she didn’t want to see any bullying against Hubbard.

Hubbard transitioned eight years ago at the age of 35. Hubbard is 43 entering Olympic competition. The International Olympic Committee said Hubbard has met all the requirements for trans athletes and fair competition.

Among those, the athletes must demonstrate that their testosterone level is below a specific measurement for at least 12 months prior to their first competition.

Hubbard didn’t find support from everyone.

Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen called her presence a “bad joke” for women competitors.

“I am aware that defining a legal frame for transgender participation in sports is very difficult since there is an infinite variety of situations and that reaching an entirely satisfactory solution, from either side of the debate, is probably impossible,” she said. “However, anyone that has trained weightlifting at a high level knows this to be true in their bones: This particular situation is unfair to the sport and to the athletes.

“Life-changing opportunities are missed for some athletes — medals and Olympic qualifications — and we are powerless. Of course, this debate is taking place in a broader context of discrimination against transgender people and that is why the question is never free of ideology.”

Hubbard won a silver medal at the 2017 World Championships and gold in the 2019 Pacific Games. She suffered an injury at the 2018 Commonwealth Games that set her career back.

“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders. 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,” Hubbard said.

“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 Associated Press contributed to this report.

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