2020 Tokyo Olympics: Laurel Hubbard Fails to Medal After Becoming First Openly Trans Weightlifter to Compete in Games

by John Jamison

Laurel Hubbard followed in the footsteps of Canadian soccer play Quinn on Monday. Representing New Zealand, she became the first openly trans Olympian to compete in a weightlifting event. Hubbard came up short on three separate lifts over 250 lbs. in the women’s over-87-kilogram division at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, causing her to miss out on a medal.

The performance marks the first time an openly transgender athlete has competed in an individual event at the Olympics. Since 2004, the IOC has permitted trans athletes to compete. But until this year, it remained unfamiliar territory. At least, no Olympian since then has chosen to compete as openly transgender.

Now that openly transgender athletes are taking part in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the fairness in competition debate has found new life. Few know this better than weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, who represented New Zealand in her event.

“Of course, I’m not entirely unaware of the controversy which surrounds my participation in these Games. And, as such, I’d particularly like to thank the IOC, for, I think, really affirming their commitment to the principles of Olympism, and establishing that sport is something for all people. It is inclusive. It is accessible,” Hubbard said, following her performance.

Even though Hubbard isn’t the sole transgender athlete taking part in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the nature of her sport puts her on an island. She is easily the most visible of the openly transgender athletes at the games. Her company includes Canadian soccer player Quinn and American BMX rider Chelsea Wolfe. Quinn has the benefit of competing with teammates around them on the field. And Wolfe likely won’t see competition at all as an alternate.

So the weight fell on Laurel Hubbard’s shoulders.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Laurel Hubbard, and Requirements for Trans Weightlifters

In 2015, the IOC recommended requirements for transgender athletes competing in the Olympics.

That said, individual sports like weightlifting set their own specific requirements. As a result, Laurel Hubbard had to meet a certain testosterone threshold before being allowed to compete. Hubbard met the requirements, as the 43-year old weightlifter transitioned more than eight years ago. She has been competing internationally as a female since then.

The IOC is currently reviewing their recommendations for athlete requirements to keep up with the latest scientific studies. Yet, with all of the current discussion regarding transgender athletes in Olympic competitions, the New Zealand Olympic Committee made its point of view clear.

“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. The New Zealand team is committed to supporting all eligible New Zealand athletes at the Olympic Games, ensuring their mental and physical wellbeing as they compete on the world stage,” the NZOC said in a statement.