New Zealander Laurel Hubbard has qualified for the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics, and in doing so, she’s breaking new ground for transgender athletes everywhere.
Hubbard, a 43-year-old trans woman, qualified for the games under a rule amendment due to so many competitions being canceled because of the global pandemic, Inside the Games reports. While she qualifies and will likely be named to the official New Zealand team, she has not been confirmed as a team member yet. She would be the first openly trans Olympian.
Under the rule change, athletes needed to compete in fewer events to qualify for the games. Previously, athletes needed to compete in six events through three calendar phases, but since so many events were canceled, the new rule states that athletes only have to participate in four.
Hubbard has a best lift of 285 kilograms in qualifying rounds, putting her 16th in the world. However, at least six of the athletes ahead of her will not be going. Four are from China, and two are from Korea, but nations can only select one representative per category. North Korea will not be participating in the games, and Russian lifter Tatiana Kahirina is suspended.
Samoan lifter Feagaiga Stowers will take a place in the top eight, meaning Hubbard qualifies as the best athlete from Oceania outside the top eight. Even without the new qualification rules, she almost definitely would have still qualified for Tokyo.
In 2015, the International Olympic Committee followed evidence from doctors and scientists and issued guidelines allowing transgender athletes to participate on the teams for their gender identity. Trans women must be on hormone replacement therapy and must have testosterone levels below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months before their first competition.
Hubbard transitioned in 2012 and placed for the first time in a weight lifting competition five years later, when she finished second at the 2017 IWF World Championships.
Trans women athletes are under an intense spotlight right now, as Republicans across America are introducing anti-trans bills in state legislatures. Many of these bills seek to bar trans girls from playing girls' sports, in the name of “fairness.” However, science indicates that trans athletes do not have any unfair advantage over cis ones.
The Tokyo Olympics, which were delayed from last year due to the global pandemic, will be held from July 23 to August 8.