Laurel Hubbard Becomes First Openly Trans Athlete To Compete at Olympics

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Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard made history this week by becoming the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the Olympic Games.

The 43-year-old New Zealander took part in three lifts but unfortunately failed to complete any of them, prompting an early exit from the women's +87 kg final.

Hubbard was notably the oldest competitor in the weightlifting event in Tokyo.

After exiting the event, Hubbard didn't take questions from reporters, but thanked fans for watching: “Thank you so very much for your interest in my humble sporting performance tonight. I know from a sporting perspective I did not live up to the standards I put upon myself.”

She also thanked New Zealand, the Japanese people, and sports organizations, including the Federation of International Gymnastics and the New Zealand Olympic Committee, as per Yahoo Sports.

“I know my participation in these games has not been entirely without controversy,” said Hubbard, referencing “quite difficult times" before lauding the International Olympic Committee for letting her compete in Japan.

“[The IOC has] been extraordinarily supportive and I think that they have reaffirmed the principles of the Olympics that sport is something that all people around the world can do, that it is inclusive and successful,” Hubbard said.

Hubbard's appearance at the Games has been widely discussed and prompted a "debate over whether she should be at the Games at all," according to The New York Times.

Publicly, Hubbard has not weighed in too heavily on the controversy, but did say in a 2017 interview with Radio New Zealand that she doesn't aspire to be the face of all transgender athletes.

“It’s not my role or my goal to change people’s minds,” Hubbard said. “I would hope they would support me, but it’s not for me to make them do so.”

The debate has been among athletes, advocates for women’s sports and fair-sport campaigners, who have questioned whether Hubbard has an "unfair advantage." They've cited that as a woman who previously competed in men's competitions prior to transitioning and quitting the sport more than a decade ago as a reason why she has an advantage. The Times notes that other critics have noted that the "Games’ binary categories fail to account for a diverse group of athletes."

This post is part of a series covering the talented female athletes competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Stay up to date on their latest achievements and watch them go for gold here

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Written By

Rose Low

Rose Low is a writer based in New York, with a background in social media strategy and reporting. She has a Masters from NYU and a love for romantic comedies. See Full Bio

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