She is the first transgender winner of the award
The University of Otago has named New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard as sportswoman of the year.
Ms Hubbard is the first transgender winner of the award in its 113 year history.
The weightlifter was awarded the title – which celebrates sporting greatness – at the Blues award on Tuesday (29 September) by the university, which is based in Dunedin on the South Island of New Zealand.
The 43-year-old became the first openly transgender woman to compete in a solo event at the Olympics earlier this year after she qualified for the women’s 87+ kg weightlifting at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
She was eliminated from the event after failing to make a successful lift in the snatch.
After receiving the award, the athlete stated that she was ‘grateful for all of the support and kindness received from the teaching staff and students at Otago University’ in a statement released in the Otago Daily Times.
“It is not possible for athletes to complete at the Olympic level without the encouragement and aroha of friends, family and supporters,” said Hubbard. “This award belongs to everyone who has been part of my Olympic journey.”
Following the International Olympic Committee’s decision to change their rules to allow women to compete if their testosterone levels are below a certain threshold, Ms Hubbard – who competed for New Zealand as a 20-year-old junior male athlete prior to transitioning in 2012 – was able to qualify for the Olympic Games.
Speaking on the IOC’s verdict, The Queenstown native thanked the organisation for their inclusivity which allowed her to qualify.
“I see the Olympic Games as a global celebration of our hopes, ideals and values and I would like to thank the IOC for its commitment to making sport inclusive and accessible,” she said in a statement.
After taking a 16-year hiatus from weightlifting, Ms Hubbard returned in style in 2017 when she won two World Championship silver medals in the 90kg class in California.
“I’m not here to change the world,” she said, speaking the competition. “I just want to be me and do what I do.”
Due to Covid-19 Alert Level 2 restrictions in Otago, only winners were allowed to attend the event.
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