Tokyo Olympics: Laurel Hubbard to become first transgender athlete to compete at Games

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Transgender athlete Laurel Hubbard and Commonwealth Games champion David Liti head a five-strong New Zealand weightlifting team for the Tokyo Olympics.

Laurel Hubbard.
Photo: Photosport

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It is the largest weightlifting team New Zealand has ever sent to an Olympics and all five athletes are Olympic debutants.

The other lifters are Kanah Andrews-Nahu, Megan Signal and Cameron McTaggart.

Hubbard will become the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics.

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The 43 year old, former World Championship silver medalist, has returned from what was thought to be a career-ending elbow injury at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

She finished sixth at the 2019 IWF World Championships in Thailand.

Hubbard has highlighted the challenges she has faced in her journey to the Olympic Games.

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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,” said Hubbard.

“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.

NZOC CEO Kereyn Smith says Hubbard will be welcomed to the New Zealand Team.

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“As well as being among the world’s best for her event, Laurel has met the IWF eligibility criteria including those based on IOC Consensus Statement guidelines for transgender athletes. 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.”

Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand President Richie Patterson says Hubbard has worked extremely hard to qualify for the Olympic Games.

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“Laurel has shown grit and perseverance in her return from a significant injury and overcoming the challenges in building back confidence on the competition platform,” said Patterson.

“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.”

New Zealand weightlifter David Liti.

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David Liti
Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Meanwhile Liti heads to his first Olympics after winning gold in the 105kg+ division in the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Liti says making the Olympic team is a dream come true.

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“A huge amount of hard work, tears, blood, sweat and dedication has gone into getting me here and it’s a privilege to represent my family, country and heritage,” said the 24-year-old.

“I can’t wait to get there and compete, I’ve been working towards this moment for so long it’s hard to believe it’s almost here.”

Fellow Aucklander, 20 year old Kanah Andrews-Nahu is regarded as the future face of weightlifting in New Zealand and will be gaining valuable Games experience at Tokyo ahead of what is expected to be an exciting career.

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Andrews-Nahu trains alongside Olympic teammate Cameron McTaggart with the pair coached by Richie Patterson.

McTaggart holds six New Zealand records, as well as two Oceania records in the 81kg class – 169kg in the clean and jerk, and a 310kg total.

McTaggart and Andrews-Nahu will be joined by their Samoa 2019 Pacific Games teammate 31-year-old Megan Signal, who is coached by Simon Kent.

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The East-Tamaki lifter came to weightlifting late in life and only began competing in her mid-20s. Since then, she’s gone from strength to strength and is the current holder of seven NZ records and two Oceania records.

NZ Olympic weightlifting team:

Kanah Andrews-Nahu (women’s -87kg)

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Laurel Hubbard (women’s +87kg)

Megan Signal (women’s -76kg)

David Liti (men’s +109kg)

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Cameron McTaggart (men’s -81kg)

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