Laurel Hubbard became the first openly transgender woman to compete.

TOKYO – Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand made history on Monday night when she competed in a weightlifting competition and Became the first openly transgender woman to compete in the Olympics.

Hubbard, 43, was one of 10 competitors in the heavyweight division and had an outside chance of winning a medal. But she failed to complete any of her three lifts in the first half of the program, leaving her out of the medal race. After her third omission, she patted her heart, raised her hand in thanks, took a bow and walked off the stage. It is not clear whether she will complete the second half of the programme.

Given the pace of the moment, Hubbard was guaranteed to grab attention, no matter where it ended up.

At the Monday night contest, the Press Tribune had twice as many requests for seats as there were seats. Credentials to enter the mixed arena, where members of the media can interview athletes, were distributed 10 hours before they faced Hubbard and his competitors.

As the competition began, New Zealand’s concerned officials discussed post-event preparations with Weightlifting Federation officials and event organisers. Of particular concern was how Hubbard could be saved from the barrage of journalists in attendance.

During the introduction, Hubbard did not appear at first with the other nine lifters as they took the stage. She left the backstage at the last minute and took her place between Lee Hsien Mi of South Korea and Sarah Robles of the United States. When his name was called and he stepped forward, he was met with polite applause and a few laughs, which was unusual in this setting.

In a half-hour contest, Hubbard took the stage. His first load with 120 kg came when half of the 10 athletes in the group completed their three lifts in the snatch portion of the program. Amidst the noise of the camera’s shutter, he lifted the bar, but lost control as he fell behind him. She shook her head and left the stage. She also missed her second two lifts before the athletes took a break.

Hubbard’s widely anticipated debut at the Tokyo International Forum came against a backdrop of an often controversial fight between supporters of transgender athletes, who have praised Hubbard’s appearance at the Olympics, and athletes, women’s sports and fair-sport campaigners. Some advocates have questioned whether it has an unfair advantage.

Hubbard competed in men’s competitions two decades before taking a break from the sport and transitioning. Hubbard is now competing at the age at which most elite lifters end their careers. She is 10 years older than Sarah Robles, the next oldest lifter in the competition on Monday. The age difference has led critics to argue that it has an unfair advantage.

Hubbard’s presence moved weightlifting competition, which is often given much less attention to center stage than gymnastics, swimming, track and field, and other Olympic sports. Yet Hubbard has little more than a statement ahead of him weeks before he was selected to compete. She rarely speaks to the media, although she said in 2017 that she does not see herself as a flag bearer for transgender athletes.

Hubbard has been rescued by the New Zealand Olympic Committee since his arrival in Tokyo. Committee secretary general Karen Smith called Hubbard a “quite a private person” and said she wanted his focus to be on.

Hubbard has won several tournaments in the Asia-Pacific region in recent years, but appeared in front of a global audience on Monday against competitors that include world-record holder Li Wenwen from China and Sarah Robles, an American who took the bronze medal. had won. Rio Games in 2016.

In recent years, weightlifting has made more headlines as athletes were caught using performance-enhancing drugs. After decades of rampant doping, bribery, vote-rigging and corruption at the highest levels of weightliftingThe International Weightlifting Federation took action last year by threatening to drop the sport from the Games in the coming months if it did not introduce several reforms, including stricter drug testing measures and regime changes.

The International Olympic Committee has left it to sporting federations to decide whether and how transgender athletes can compete, and Hubbard has met all requirements set by the International Weightlifting Federation.

Hubbard won junior titles in men’s competitions prior to his transition, but stopped weightlifting in his 20s because, he told one interviewer, “it became too much to bear” as he struggled to deal with his identity. Was being It resumed competition in 2012, five years after the transition. When she won three titles in 2017, her performance set social media on fire.

Last week, IOC officials said they would soon adopt new guidelines, Controlling the participation of transgender women was originally developed in 2015 In the Olympic Games because they consider the existing rules out of date.

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