Transgender weightlifter's sad announcement after Olympics debut

New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard pumps her fist after competing at the Tokyo Olympics.
New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard became the first openly transgender athlete to compete at an Olympic Games. (Wally Skalij /Los Angeles Times via Getty Images) (Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag)

New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard has announced her retirement from the sport after her first Olympic appearance.

The 43-year-old is considered by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to be the first openly transgender athlete to compete at an Olympic Games.

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Hubbard's presence at the Tokyo Games sparked debate about the rules around transgender athletes, but it proved to be a storm in a teacup as the admittedly 'overwhelmed' Kiwi was unable to complete a successful lift and qualify beyond the first round.

Nevertheless, Hubbard's determination to compete was hailed by transgender activists around the world.

With many of her competitors nearly 20 years her junior, Hubbard said it had become increasingly clear it was time to give up her weightlifting dreams.

Notoriously private outside of competition, Hubbard said she was keen to return to her low-profile life in New Zealand.

"Age has caught up with me. In fact if we're being honest it probably caught up with me some time ago," she said.

"My involvement in sport is probably due, if nothing else, to heroic amounts of anti-inflammatories, and it's probably time for me to start thinking about hanging up the boots and concentrating on other things in my life."

Transgender athlete Laurel Hubbard thanks IOC for support

Hubbard praised the IOC for showing "moral leadership" in adopting inclusive polices that allowed her to participate at the Games.

"I'm not sure that a role model is something I could ever aspire to be, instead I hope that just by being I can provide some sense of encouragement," she told reporters.

Critics argue athletes such as Hubbard, who was born male and transitioned to female in her 30s, have physical benefits hardwired into their bodies during their formative years.

These include greater muscle mass and lung capacity, leading to fears that female-born athletes could be forced to compete on an uneven playing field.

The IOC, under guidelines adopted in 2003, only allowed transgender participation for athletes who had undergone gender reassignment surgery but dropped the requirement in 2015, instead focusing on lower testosterone levels.

The governing body is set to release new guidelines on the issue after the Tokyo Games are completed.

Hubbard said she welcomed the discussion about the issues her debut had highlighted.

"I'm certain that a conversation needs to be had," she said.

"Although we have rules at the moment, they will no doubt change and evolve as more is known about transgender athletes and what that means for participation in sport."

With AFP

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