Tokyo Olympics: Kiwi weightlifter Laurel Hubbard poised to become first transgender Olympian after IOC rule change

An IOC rule change could see Kiwi weightlifter Laurel Hubbard become the first transgender Olympic athlete.

Inside the Games website reports Hubbard is 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.

Hubbard, 43, competed in men's weightlifting competitions, before transitioning 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 were below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months before their first competition.

Weightlifting has been at the centre of the debate over the fairness of transgender athletes competing in women's sports and Hubbard's presence in Tokyo would attract huge media attention, as well as criticism from fellow lifters and coaches.

Hubbard finished runner-up at the 2017 world championships, but when Australia's weightlifting federation sought to block her from competing at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, organisers rejected the move. She eventually failed to medal, after injuring her elbow during the competition.

Her gold medals at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa, where she topped the podium ahead of Samoa's Commonwealth Games champion Feagaiga Stowers, triggered outrage in the island nation.

New Zealand has not yet named its weightlifting contingent for Tokyo.