Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will be first transgender athlete to compete at Olympics

ITV News Reporter Sangita Lal runs through Laurel Hubbard's impressive record

Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard is set to make history after being confirmed as the first transgender athlete to ever compete at the Olympic Games.

Officials have selected her for New Zealand's women's weightlifting team for Tokyo 2020, after qualifying requirements were recently modified.

She has competed in men's events before transitioning in 2012 - although not at an international level.

At 43, she will also be the oldest weightlifter at the games, and will be ranked fourth in the competition on August 2 for women 87 kilograms (192 pounds) and over.

"I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders," Hubbard said in a statement, issued by the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) on Monday.

Laurel Hubbard reacts after failing to make a lift in the snatch of the women's +90kg weightlifting final at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Credit: AP

Hubbard added: "When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth Games three years ago, I was advised that my sporting career had likely reached its end. But your support, your encouragement, and your aroha (love) carried me through the darkness.

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

Hubbard has met all of the requirements of the International Olympic Committee’s regulations for trans athletes and fair competition.

The IOC policy specifies conditions under which those who transition from male to female are eligible to compete in the female category.

Among them is that the athlete has declared that her gender identity is female and that the declaration cannot be changed, for sporting purposes, for a minimum of four years.

She has been eligible to compete at Olympic Games since 2015, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued guidelines allowing any transgender athlete to compete as a woman provided their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per litre of blood for at least one year before their first competition.

New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard reacts after failing to lift in the snatch of the women's +90kg weightlifting final. Credit: AP

Some of Hubbard’s rivals, including the Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen, have claimed she will have an unfair advantage.

Vanbellinghen, who competes in the same +87kg division as Hubbard, said she supports the transgender community but added it would be "unfair to the sport".

"Anyone that has trained weightlifting at a high level knows this to be true in their bones: this particular situation is unfair to the sport and to the athletes," Vanbellinghen said.

Other critics including some athletes and weightlifting officials, have also claimed Hubbard has a natural advantage in terms of physiology and strength.

But New Zealand's government and the country's top sporting body have backed her inclusion for the upcoming Olympics.

"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," New Zealand Olympic Committee Chief Executive Kereyn Smith said.

"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," he said.