Laurel Hubbard calls Olympics a “global celebration” and commends the IOC for its commitment to making sport open and inclusive

The IOC says it is not aware of any other athlete who is openly transgender and has competed in an Olympics.

Laurel Hubbard (New Zealand Olympic Committee)
Laurel Hubbard (New Zealand Olympic Committee)

New Zealand’s transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard says she is feeling good and described the Games as a global celebration.

Her comments came on Friday while key officials from the IOC, International Weightlifting Federation and the New Zealand Olympic Committee met the media at the Main Press Centre.

Hubbard, 43, has been under an intense media spotlight since her participation in the Games was approved by the IOC and IWF, the sport’s world governing body.

The Auckland native will compete in Monday’s +87kg event at the Tokyo International Forum. The press tribune, mixed zone and venue media center are expected to be jammed with journalists following the story of one of the most talked about athletes at Tokyo 2020.

A former record-breaker in junior men’s weightlifting, Hubbard started her gender transition in 2012. She restarted her career by competing in international events as a woman in 2017.

The 2019 Pacific Games winner is one of the first openly transgender female Olympic competitors and follows the participation of Canadian women’s soccer player Quinn (born Rebecca Catherine Quinn) who came out as nonbinary and transgender via Instagram last year.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Soccer Football - Women - Group E - Chile v Canada - Sapporo Dome, Sapporo, Japan - July 24, 2021. Rosario Balmaceda of Chile in action with Quinn of Canada REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Soccer Football - Women - Group E - Chile v Canada - Sapporo Dome, Sapporo, Japan - July 24, 2021. Rosario Balmaceda of Chile in action with Quinn of Canada REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Quinn, who is the world’s first transgender and nonbinary Olympian, will feature for Canada on Monday against the USA in the women’s football semi-finals.

IOC spokesperson Rachel Rominger told media that the IOC are not aware of any athlete other than Hubbard who is openly transgender and has competed in an Olympics.

“In Tokyo we have the first openly transgender female athlete and we have published information addressing all your questions.

“We have provided guidance to international federations on the subject and engaged in a review of this guidance,” she continued.

“There (have) been lots of developments in this area and of course there are political, social, legal and human rights factors and globally we’ve seen a lot of discussion on transgender athletes.

“We have engaged with human rights organizations and athletes have also been involved in those talks.”

Laurel Hubbard at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. April 9, 2018. REUTERS/Paul Childs
Laurel Hubbard at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. April 9, 2018. REUTERS/Paul Childs

New Zealand’s NOC spokesperson echoed the words of the IOC and explained the selection criteria which Hubbard had to meet to earn her selection for Tokyo 2020.

“I’d like to share some insights from our point of view. Laurel was selected in June in what is really a milestone for our team and she had to meet three sets of strict criteria to earn her selection.

“Firstly, Laurel had to meet the IWF eligibility and standards. Secondly, she has to perform to a high level to achieve a quota spot and thirdly, in New Zealand we set performance standards where athletes are required to demonstrate that they can finish in the top 16 places in their Olympic event.

“Laurel was selected for the 2018 Commonwealth Games team but couldn’t compete due to injury. We’re pleased to be able to welcome her onto the team here and we’re particularly mindful of her welfare.

“We want her to be safe and for her well-being to be taken care so that she can perform to the best of her ability.”

The values of the New Zealand and their culture was also discussed.

“We talk about our values in the team, respect and integrity. It’s important to us for our athletes to be taken care of.

“One hallmark of the team is our culture, our standards and how we come together as a group.”

The New Zealand Olympic Committee also read out an email message from Hubbard.

“I’m feeling good. I see the Olympics as a global celebration of our hopes, our ideals and our values,” said the 2017 world silver medalist.

“I commend the IOC for its commitment to making sport open and inclusive for all.”

Around the Rings will be on location at the Tokyo International Forum on Monday.

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