The Tokyo Games could be a landmark moment for New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard after a rule change could see the 43-year-old become the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics.
A report from Inside the Games website on Wednesday said Hubbard was effectively guaranteed a spot in the women's super heavyweight category after the International Olympic Committee approved an amendment to the qualifying system due to disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Hubbard competed in men's weightlifting competitions before her transition in 2013.
She has been eligible to compete in the Olympics since 2015, when the IOC issued new guidelines allowing any transgender athlete to compete as a woman provided their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months before their first competition.
Hubbard would be a legitimate medal chance, despite being the oldest weightlifter at 43 years old.
She is ranked 4th out of 14 qualifiers for the 87kg-plus division at the Tokyo Games.
This is all despite a serious arm injury at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, which could have ended her dreams of a Tokyo Olympics spot.
Coming back from surgery, she has had unwavering support from Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand for her Tokyo bid.
"Nothing has changed for us," Simon Kent, OWNZ's head of high performance told Reuters.
"We are still following the same parameters we have since the get-go. We follow the IOC protocols and as Laurel said, she meets (them)."
Hubbard's inclusion divides opinion
The inclusion of Hubbard in women's events has prompted divisive views from rival lifters and their coaches.
Her gold medal wins at the Pacific Games in Samoa last year, where she topped the podium ahead of Samoa's Commonwealth Games champion Stowers, triggered outrage in the island nation.
Australia's weightlifting federation sought to block Hubbard from competing at their home Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in 2018 but organisers rejected their bid.
Last year, Australian former track athlete Tamsyn Manou, who won three Commonwealth golds competing as Tamsyn Lewis from 1998-2006, hit out at the inclusion of transgender athletes in their sports.
"There's been a lot of people who are scared to come out and say anything because of political correctness," Manou told local radio station 2GB.
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