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Laurel Hubbard Likely to Become First Transgender Olympian, Competing in Women's Weightlifting

In this 2018 file photo, New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard, right, stands with Australia's Deb Lovely-Acason ahead of the women's +90kg weightlifting final at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Australia. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

A transgender weightlifter from New Zealand could be headed to Tokyo, Japan to compete in this summer's Olympic games.

NBC Sports reports Laurel Hubbard, 43, was a man until his mid-30s but then transitioned to become a transgender woman and has competed at the top international level since 2017. No openly transgender athlete has competed at an Olympics, according to Olympic historians. 

If selected, Hubbard would be the oldest weightlifter competing in Tokyo. 

The New Zealand Olympic Committee issued a statement after Wednesday reports that Hubbard clinched Olympic qualification, clarifying that it's "very likely" she will qualify an Olympic spot. If she qualifies, the committee is expected to decide in June whether to take the next and final step — nominating her to the Olympic team.

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The committee will nominate athletes who it thinks could place in the top 8 during the Tokyo games. 

Hubbard placed second and sixth at the world championships in 2017 and 2019. Her last international result was recorded before the pandemic on March 1, 2020, according to NBC Sports

The International Weightlifting Federation complies with International Olympic Committee transgender guidelines introduced in 2015: athletes who transition from male to female are eligible for the Olympics if their total testosterone level in serum has been below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months. The athlete's declaration that her gender identity is female also cannot be changed for at least four years.

Critics of transgenders competing in women's sports have pointed out that while testosterone levels can be decreased, other physiological benefits possessed by individuals with male DNA are immutable, like bone structure.

Hubbard never competed internationally as a man. She declined interview requests since winning the silver medal in the Women's Super Heavyweight division at the 2017 World Championships.  American Sarah Robles won the gold medal at that event. 

A blogger for Red State writes that Hubbard's ability to potentially qualify for the Olympics exposes the unfairness of allowing someone born as a biological male to compete in women's sports:

"The ONLY basis upon which Hubbard is able to be involved at the Olympic level, and be a factor in the medal race, is because he's something no other person in the competition is — he's a biological male. While identifying as a male he lacked the talent or physical ability, but as a self-identified female Hubbard suddenly is a world-class athlete — albeit well past one's physical prime — who can compete at the absolute pinnacle of the sport on an international level."

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