Trans weightlifter Laurel Hubbard gracefully bows out after historic Olympics debut

Laurel Hubbard competes at the 2021 Olympics

New Zealander Laurel Hubbard has officially made history as the first openly trans woman to compete at the Olympics.

Just three years after suffering a broken arm at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, an injury she was told at the time would likely be career-ending, Hubbard competed today in the over 87k division, but failed to lift 125kg in the snatch competition.

Athletes are not allowed to proceed to the clean and jerk portion of the competition without recording a successful snatch, meaning Laurel Hubbard is now out of this year’s Olympic Games.

Showing great grace and decorum, Laurel Hubbard bowed to officials and the crowd in thanks for their support.

Yet her inclusion in the games has been hailed by many as a crucial step forward for trans representation in sports. “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 after being selected for the Olympics back in June.

“Your support, your encouragement and your ‘aroha’ (affection) carried me through the darkness.

Laurel Hubbard’s inclusion sparks Olympic rule revisions

The road to success has been far from easy for Laurel Hubbard.

The 43-year-old was a record-beating weightlifter throughout her school years, but took an extended hiatus in 2001. “It just became too much to bear,” she explained in a 2017 interview“Just the pressure of trying to fit into a world that perhaps wasn’t really set up for people like myself.”

The last few months have also seen endless headlines debating Olympic rules on the inclusion of trans women in sport, which the Olympic International Committee last week admitted are “not fit for purpose.”

As it stands, the most recent guidelines, issued in 2015, allow trans women to compete without requirement of gender confirmation surgery, provided they take medication to lower testosterone levels to below 10 nanomoles/litre for 12 months.

In a statement issued to The Guardianthe IOC’s medical and science director Dr Richard Budgett explained the science has since “moved on”, and indicated the rules would be updated within the next two months. “At the time, the 10 nanomoles/litre was set because we thought that was the lower level for men,” he continued.

“We know now that they go down to seven and women can be higher as well. Agreeing on another number is almost impossible and possibly irrelevant. You can debate that endlessly.”

Hubbard may not have won, but her performance in the games may change Olympic history regardless.