Tokyo Olympics: 'Trailblazer' Laurel Hubbard should be celebrated, says NZ sports legend Eric Murray

Double Olympic champion and NZ sporting great Eric Murray has described Kiwi weightlifter Laurel Hubbard as a "trailblazer" who has sparked an inevitable and much-needed discourse about the future of transgender people in sport.

On Monday, 43-year-old Hubbard - who was born male - was eliminated in the early stages of the women's +87kg class at the Tokyo Olympics, after failing on three snatch attempts.

But the introverted Aucklander's appearance alone has been enough to prompt a global debate on trans-athletes in sports, which Murray has compared to the early struggles for gender equality.

"We should be celebrating the fact that she is a trailblazer because this isn't going away," Murray tells AM Show.

"If we look at it, only probably 40 years ago, we were sitting here in sport going 'oh, are they going to let women compete in our events? This is a male sport.'

"So we're in that conversation at the moment where trans athletes aren't going away so we've just got to figure out how they fit into the equation, which is sport."

Laurel Hubbard during introductions in Tokyo.
Laurel Hubbard during introductions in Tokyo. Photo credit: Photosport

Eight years ago, Hubbard changed her name and underwent hormone therapy to transition to a female and her return to elite level weightlifting competition has been widely criticised as unfair.

Hubbard was allowed to compete after meeting the required athletic performance standards as well as the International Weightlifting Federation's transgender athlete policy, which was based off guidelines set by the International Olympic Committee in 2015.

Last week, the IOC admitted that its current guidelines for transgender athletes are not fit for purpose. It plans to release new ones within the next two months.

Murray - who won Olympic gold in the men's pair rowing at London 2012 and Rio 2016 - stresses the need for future rules to be adapted according to the sport.

"You've got to remember that we're having a conversation and going to be an ongoing conversation," says Murray.

"At the moment, there are rules in place, but they're rules that have been set out because they don't know what the levels should be.

"With Laurel going out there and competing, obviously it's got to be fluid and it's also got to be fluid in different sports….800m is different obviously than weightlifting."

A disappointed Hubbard was philosophical about her efforts in Tokyo, but expressed her gratitude for the support she'd received from the IOC, IWF, and the New Zealand Olympic Committee in the face of a wave of public backlash opposed to her selection.

"They (the IOC) have reaffirmed their commitment to the principles of Olympism," she told Sky Sports. 

"They've demonstrated that sport is something for all people around the world to do. It's inclusive, it's accessible and I think that’s just really fabulous.

"The NZOC have supported me through what have been quite difficult times. I know my participation at these Games has not been entirely without controversy but they have been just so wonderful.

"They've been such a help and I'm so grateful to them all."

Join us from 12pm, for live updates of all of the Kiwis in action in Tokyo on Tuesday