New Zealand weightlifter to become first transgender Olympian

New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will become the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics after her country tapped her for its national team. 

The New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) issued a statement Sunday announcing Hubbard will join four other weightlifters, adding that she has met all of their eligibility requirements, as well as those from the International Weightlifting Federation and the International Olympic Committee, when it comes to male-to-female transition criteria. 

“As well as being among the world’s best for her event, Laurel has met the IWF eligibility criteria including those based on IOC Consensus Statement guidelines for transgender athletes,” NZOC CEO Kereyn Smith said in the statement. “We acknowledge that gender identity in sport is a highly sensitive and complex issue requiring a balance between human rights and fairness on the field of play.”

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Hubbard, 43, said she is “grateful and humbled by the kindness and support” that fellow New Zealanders have given to her. 

“The last eighteen months has shown us all that there is strength in kinship, in community, and in working together towards a common purpose,” Hubbard said. “The mana of the silver fern comes from all of you and I will wear it with pride.”

Hubbard has been at the center of debates over the fairness of allowing transgender athletes to compete in women’s sports. 

Save Women’s Sport Australasia, an organization that is critical of transgender women competing in women's sports, slammed the decision on Twitter on Monday. 

“It is flawed policy from the IOC that has allowed the selection of a 43-year-old biological male who identifies as a woman to compete in the female category,” the organization said. 

Hubbard has been eligible to compete in the Olympics since 2015 after the International Olympic Committee established new guidelines for openly transgender athletes.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is set to begin on July 23.