New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard has received an outpouring of support from prime minister Jacinda Ardern.
Hubbard, 43, became the first openly trans athlete to be selected for the Olympics when she was picked for the New Zealand women’s weightlifting team for Toyko 2020.
Ardern offered Hubbard her full support. “All parties here have simply followed the rules,” the New Zealand prime minister said. “That’s the case for Laurel but also the team in New Zealand, they have followed the rules.”
Hubbard became eligible after a rule-tweak during the coronavirus pandemic that meant qualifying athletes were required to attend four competition events, rather than six.
New Zealand’s Conservative opposition leader, Judith Collins, also backed Hubbard’s selection, saying she’s in awe of all Olympians and that Hubbard “is who she is and she is trying to do her best”.
“I’d hate to see any bullying or any horrible comments about Laurel because she’s doing what she wants to do,” Collins said.
Anti-trans campaigners have been quick to decry Hubbard’s selection as unfair and to claim that trans women are taking over women’s sport. Openly trans athletes have been allowed to enter the Olympics since 2004. Seventeen years later, Hubbard is the first to qualify.
Her Olympic rival, the Australian weightlifter Charisma Amoe-Tarrant, will compete against Laurel Hubbard in the 87kg-plus super heavyweight category and said she sees no problem with Hubbard’s inclusion.
“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,” said Amoe-Tarrant.
“Because this Olympics right now is quite different compared to others. I’ve competed with her previously and always had good chats with her, I just wish her well.”
Since 2015, International Olympics Committee (IOC) rules have meant that trans women must show they have been on hormone replacement therapy that has lowered their testosterone levels below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months before their first competition.
After Hubbard’s selection on Monday (21 June), she released a statement saying she was “grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders”.
“The mana of the silver fern comes from all of you and I will wear it with pride,” she said.