New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard is set to become the first-ever transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics.
The 43-year-old has been selected for the women's weightlifting team for Tokyo 2020 and will compete in the 87-kg category.
Hubbard competed in men's weightlifting events before transitioning nearly 10 years ago.
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"I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders," she said in a statement issued by the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) on Monday.
Hubbard is eligible to compete after meeting the eligibility criteria for athletes who transition from male to female based on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Consensus Statement guidelines.
The IOC changed its rules in 2015 to allow transgender athletes to compete as a woman if their testosterone levels are below a certain threshold.
NZOC CEO Kereyn Smith says Hubbard will be welcomed to the New Zealand team
"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.
"As the New Zealand Team, we have a strong culture of manaaki and inclusion and respect for all. We are committed to supporting all eligible New Zealand athletes and ensuring their mental and physical wellbeing, along with their high-performance needs, while preparing for and competing at the Olympic Games are met."
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Hubbard's selection has previously caused controversy. Samoa's weightlifting boss said the New Zealander's selection for Tokyo was like allowing athletes to "dope" while Australia's weightlifting federation tried to have Hubbard barred from the 2018 Commonwealth Games, a move that was rejected by organisers.
Save Women's Sport Australasia also criticised the announcement of Hubbard's selection on Monday.
"It is flawed policy from the IOC that has allowed the selection of a 43-year-old biological male who identifies as a woman to compete in the female category."
Hubbard has bounced back from a serious arm injury in 2018 that threatened to end her career.
She returned to competition in 2019 and performed strongly throughout the rest of the year and into 2020 to earn her place in Tokyo.
“When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth Games three years ago, I was advised that my sporting career had likely reached its end," she said.
"But your support, your encouragement, and your aroha carried me through the darkness. The last 18 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 from all of you and I will wear it with pride."
New Zealand deputy prime minister Grant Robertson added: "Laurel is a member of New Zealand's Olympic team.
"We are proud of her as we are of all our athletes, and will be supporting her all the way."
The Olympics will run from July 23 to August 8 in Tokyo.
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