(CNN) – New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will be the first transgender athlete to compete in the Olympic Games, after being selected for the national team on Monday.
She will compete in the women’s 87kg category, according to a statement from the New Zealand Olympic Committee which also announced the other four members of the weightlifting team.
The 43-year-old Hubbard qualified for the Tokyo Games in May, after a rule change, effectively guaranteeing him a place in the super heavyweight category, Reuters reported at the time. This will be his first time at the Olympics, and a great comeback after a major injury in 2018.
“I am grateful and honored for the kindness and support so many New Zealanders have shown me,” Hubbard said in the statement.
“When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth Games three years ago, I knew my athletic career might have come to an end. But their support and encouragement and seeing her carried me through the darkness,” he said, using the indigenous Maori word for “love.”
Weightlifting has been the focus of an ongoing heated debate about transgender athletes who compete in women’s sports. Dozens of US states are considering legislation that would prevent Transgender women and girls participate in feminist groupsSeveral of them have already enacted sports bans this year.
Hubbard’s participation in the women’s categories has sparked controversy before: in 2018, the Australian Weightlifting Federation tried to prevent her from competing in the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, but the move was rejected by organizers.
And in May, after Hubbard’s success in qualifying, Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbelingen told an Olympic news site that the situation was “unfair” and “like a bad joke”.
Hubbard competed in men’s weightlifting competitions before moving on in 2013. She has been eligible to compete in the Olympics since 2015, when the International Olympic Committee issued new guidelines allowing any transgender athlete to compete as a woman as long as her testosterone levels were below 10 nanomols per liter for a period of time. At least 12 months before your first competition, according to Reuters.
Her eligibility for this year’s Olympics was confirmed after she met the criteria of the International Weightlifting Federation, the International Olympic Committee and the New Zealand Olympic Committee, the committee said in a statement on Monday.
“We recognize that gender identity in sport is a very sensitive and complex issue that requires a balance between human rights and fairness on the court,” said Keren Smith, chief executive of the New Zealand Olympic Committee, in the statement.
“As a New Zealand team, we have a strong culture of Manaki, inclusion and respect for everyone,” Smith said. “We are committed to supporting all eligible New Zealand athletes and ensuring their physical and mental well-being, along with their high-performance needs, as they prepare to compete in the Olympics.”
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