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The Tokyo Olympics have been a long time coming and the athletes are more than prepared to compete, having originally trained for the games to be in 2020. One athlete in particular has caught spectators' attention, and that's Laurel Hubbard - the first ever transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics.
The New Zealand national is set to compete in the women's weightlifting team in Tokyo this year, a decision which has caused some controversy.
Laurel had competed in men's events before coming out as transgender in 2013.
In 2015, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) changed their rules so that transgender atheletes were allowed to compete as women, as long as their testosterone levels were below a certain threshold. That's because testosterone is a hormone which helps increase muscle mass and bone density.
Those who are against the decision to allow Laurel to compete in the women's events say that although her testosterone levels meet the requirements, she has an unfair advantage because she went through puberty as a male, which means she'll have benefited from the higher testosterone levels and could therefore have an unfair advantage against the female-born athletes.
Supporters have praised the decision and say the Olympics should be more inclusive.
Laurel Hubbard was born on 9th February 1978 in Auckland, New Zealand. Her father, Dick Hubbard, is the former mayor of Auckland City, and founder of cereal giant Hubbard Foods.
Laurel was born male and said in an interview that she took up weightlifting in a bid to feel more masculine. She started her transition in 2012.
Speaking to Radio New Zealand, Hubbard said: "I thought perhaps if I tried something that was so masculine perhaps that's what I'd become.''
Laurel Hubbard is 1.85m (6ft) tall.
Before her gender transition, Laurel set a New Zealand men's junior record in 1998 in what was then the newly established M105+ division, with snatch 135 kg, clean & jerk 170 kg, and total of 300kg.
Hubbard stopped weightlifting in 2001 at the age of 23. She didn't start competing again until she had gone through her gender transition.
Hubbard competed in international weightlifting for the first time in 2017, after her transition.
She told RNZ: "it just became too much to bear ... just the pressure of trying to fit into a world that perhaps wasn't really set up for people like myself."
Hubbard became the first trans weightlifter to win an international title for New Zealand, winning a gold medal after competing in the heaviest +90kg category at the Australian International & Australian Open in Melbourne. Her winning result was a 123 kg snatch and 145 kg clean & jerk, for a total of 268 kg at a bodyweight of 131.83 kg.
Hubbard qualified for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, but an elbow injury meant she couldn't compete.
In 2019, Hubbard brought in two gold medals from the Pacific Games in Samoa and in 2020, she won the gold medal at the women's +87 kg event at the Roma 2020 World Cup in Rome, Italy.
Laurel is set to compete in the women's +87kg category at the Tokyo Olympics on 2nd August.
Details about the categories and start times of the events can be found on the Olympics website here.
Featured Image Credit: Commonwealth Games Gold Coast
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