Debate around transgender athletes heats up with Kiwi weightlifter a chance of going to Tokyo

Source: 1News

Kiwi transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard could make history at the Olympics this year after revised qualifying rules effectively mean she's been allocated a spot for the Tokyo Games.

Weightlifting's International Federation confirmed new Olympic qualification criteria in the wake of the global Covid-19 crisis today which gives Hubbard the all-clear.

It would make her the first ever transgender Olympic athlete, but the milestone is, once again, being met with plenty of debate.

“I’m quite disappointed, quite disappointed for the female athlete who will lose out on that spot,” former weightlifter Tracey LamBrechs said.

“We're all about equality for women in sport but right now that equality is being taken away from us.”

Ahi Wi-Hongi from Gender Minorities Aotearoa thinks differently though.

“We know a lot of trans people don’t participate in sports - there are a lot of barriers for getting involved,” they said.

“It’s really encouraging, I think.”

The 43-year-old has been subject to controversy since first lifting as a female, having competed as a male before transitioning in her mid 30s.

At the crux of it is the question of fairness with some see her inclusion as groundbreaking while others say it’s a little more than cheating.

“I’ve had female weightlifters come up to me and say, ‘what do we do? This isn’t fair, what do we do?’,” Lambrechs said.

“Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do because every time we voice it we get told to be quiet.”

Olympic Weightlifting NZ coach Simon Kent said there’s still plenty to discuss before Tokyo.

“Laurel meets the criteria, the rules are in place, that’s the playing field we're playing in so that’s how we're going to move forward,” he said.

The NZOC's hosted it's annual general meeting in Auckland today and while they wouldn’t comment on camera to 1 NEWS about the issue, they said there are more steps to go through before Hubbard is actually selected.

Those steps include meeting their own, stricter nomination criteria, which NZOC says is being revised in light of the international federation changes.

1 NEWS also reached out to other weightlifting federations who say they abide by and respect the established rules.