Transgender Olympians head to Tokyo’s 2021 games, American athlete vows ‘to burn US flag on podium’

Laurel Hubbard, who is a New Zealand weightlifter, is set to become the first transgender Olympic athlete in history. She was chosen Monday to be part of the country’s women’s weightlifting team for the games in Tokyo this year.

Hubbard transitioned in 2012 and has previously competed as a man. The International Olympic Committee changed its rules in 2015 to allow transgender athletes to compete if their testosterone level is below a mandated level and is maintained for a year. The level to compete requires a maximum reading of 10 nanomoles per liter of testosterone. That is at least five times more than a biological woman and critics are calling it an unfair advantage.

“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders,” the weightlifter noted in a statement.

Hubbard, who is 43, will compete in the super heavyweight category and will be the oldest lifter at the games. It is a comeback for the athlete who suffered a significant injury and setback in 2018.

(Video Credit: BBC News)

“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 carried me through the darkness,” she said. “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’ [honour] of the silver fern comes from all of you and I will wear it with pride.”

Critics contend that Hubbard will still have an unfair advantage over other women when she competes in her 87-kilogram bracket in August.

IOC guidelines reportedly contend that transitioned athletes who have gone from male to female are still allowed to compete without having their testes removed.

To qualify in her division, Hubbard lifted 628 pounds. In 2017, she won a silver medal at the World Championships, and in 2019, she struck gold at the Pacific Games in Samoa.

New Zealand Olympic Committee Chief Executive Kereyn Smith proclaimed that Hubbard has met all the criteria in order to compete in Tokyo in 2021.

“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,” Smith stated. “As the New Zealand Team, we have a strong culture of manaaki (hospitality) and inclusion and respect for all.”

New Zealand’s weightlifting Federation President Richie Patterson remarked that Hubbard had shown “grit and perseverance in her return from a significant injury and overcoming the challenges in building back confidence on the competition platform.”

”Laurel is an astute student of the sport and technically very good with the lifts. We look forward to supporting her in her final preparations towards Tokyo,” commented Patterson.

Hubbard’s participation in women’s categories has drawn criticism before. In 2018, Australia’s weightlifting federation attempted to block her from competing at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. Organizers rejected that move. Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen also declared that the New Zealander’s taking part in the games would be “like a bad joke” and “unfair” for women competitors.

Save Women’s Sports Australasia, which is an organization that is opposed to transgender women competing in women’s sports, stated that Hubbard’s selection was allowed by “flawed policy from the IOC.”

“Males do have a performance advantage that is based on their biological sex,” co-founder Katherine Deves stated on Reuters TV. “They outperform us on every single metric – speed, stamina, strength. Picking testosterone is a red herring … We are forgetting about the anatomy, the fast, rich muscle, the bigger organs.”

Hubbard is not the only transgender making waves at the games this year.

BMX Freestyle rider Chelsea Wolfe, who identifies as a trans woman and qualified as an alternate for the United States at the Tokyo Olympics, is also catching heat for proclaiming last year: “My goal is to win the Olympics so I can burn a US flag on the podium. This is what they focus on during a pandemic. Hurting trans children.” That post has been deleted.

(Image: screenshot)

“Anyone who thinks that I don’t care about the United States is sorely mistaken,” Wolfe informed Fox News. “One of the reasons why I work so hard to represent the United States in international competition is to show the world that this country has morals and values, that it’s not all of the bad things that we’re known for. I take a stand against fascism because I care about this country and I’m not going to let it fall into the hands of fascists after so many people have fought and sacrificed to prevent fascism from taking hold abroad. As a citizen who wants to be proud of my home country, I’m sure as hell not going to let it take hold here.”

“I searched for so long trying to find out if there had ever been a professional trans bmx rider to show me that who I am would be okay and unfortunately I found no one,” Wolfe posted to Instagram on June 12. “Eventually I started to meet some amazing women who helped me accept that I am a woman just like any other and that I deserve a place to exist in the world just like everyone else.”

She will have to meet the same requirements that Hubbard has to concerning testosterone levels in order to compete, and she has just as many critics.

Transgender athletes in weightlifting and other sports have been a point of heated debate for some time. Dozens of states are considering passing legislation that would prevent transgenders from taking part in women’s sports.

Outrage over a transgender competing as a woman at the Olympics was rampant on social media:

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