Laurel Hubbard, transgender weightlifter, named to New Zealand Olympic team

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Laurel Hubbard, a transgender weightlifter from New Zealand, has been named to the nation’s Olympic team after qualifying via international rankings at the end of May.

No openly transgender athlete has competed at an Olympics, according to Olympic historians. Hubbard, 43, transitioned in her mid-30s and has competed at the top international level since 2017.

“As well as being among the world’s best for her event, Laurel has met the IWF eligibility criteria including those based on IOC Consensus Statement guidelines for transgender athletes,” New Zealand Olympic Committee CEO Kereyn Smith said in a press release. “We acknowledge that gender identity in sport is a highly sensitive and complex issue requiring a balance between human rights and fairness on the field of play.”

The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) adheres to IOC transgender guidelines introduced in 2015: athletes who transition from male to female are eligible for the Olympics if their total testosterone level in serum has been below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months. The athlete’s declaration that her gender identity is female also cannot be changed for at least four years.

Hubbard, second and sixth at the world championships in 2017 and 2019, last competed internationally on March 1, 2020, according to the IWF.

Hubbard came back from rupturing an elbow ligament on a snatch attempt in April 2018, an injury she believed would be career-ending, to remain Olympic eligible.

She needed to compete once between Nov. 1, 2018 and April 30, 2019 to stay in the qualifying race. She did so on April 29, 2019, taking three snatch attempts and failing on all of them — “bombing out,” as they say in weightlifting — and receiving zero qualifying points, but retaining Olympic eligibility.

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“When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth Games three years ago, I was advised that my sporting career had likely reached its end,” Hubbard said in the Olympic team announcement release. “But your support, your encouragement, and your aroha carried me through the darkness.

“The last eighteen months has shown us all that there is strength in kinship, in community, and in working together towards a common purpose. The mana of the silver fern comes from all of you and I will wear it with pride.”

Hubbard competed against men until 2001, stopping lifting at age 23 due to “the pressure of trying to fit into, perhaps, a world that wasn’t really set up for people like myself,” she said in 2017.

Hubbard last spoke extensively to media after taking silver at the 2017 World Championships behind American Sarah Robles. She has since declined interview requests through New Zealand’s federation.

“To be honest, I had to wait until the world changed before I could really compete again, and I’m grateful that it has,” Hubbard said in 2017, adding that she regained the belief to compete in 2014. “I think even 10 years ago, the world perhaps wasn’t ready for an athlete like myself, and perhaps it’s not ready now. But I got the sense at least that people were willing to consider me for these competitions.”

Hubbard would break the record for oldest female Olympic weightlifter, according to Olympedia.org.

“I’m not here to change the world,” she said in 2017. “I just want to be me and just do what I do.”

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Joel Embiid gains U.S. citizenship, mum on Olympic nationality

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Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center Joel Embiid said he is now a U.S. citizen and it’s way too early to think about what nation he would represent at the Olympics.

“I just want to be healthy and win a championship and go from there,” he said, according to The Associated Press.

Embiid, 28, was born in Cameroon and has never competed in a major international tournament. In July, he gained French nationality, a step toward being able to represent that nation at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

In the spring, French media reported that Embiid started the process to become eligible to represent France in international basketball, quoting national team general manager Boris Diaw.

Embiid was second in NBA MVP voting this season behind Serbian Nikola Jokic. He was the All-NBA second team center.

What nation Embiid represents could have a major impact on the Paris Games.

In Tokyo, a French team led by another center, Rudy Gobert, handed the U.S. its first Olympic defeat since 2004. That was in group play. The Americans then beat the French in the gold-medal game 87-82.

That France team had five NBA players to the U.S.’ 12: Nicolas BatumEvan FournierTimothe Luwawu-CabarrotFrank Ntilikina and Gobert.

Anthony Davis, who skipped the Tokyo Olympics, is the lone U.S. center to make an All-NBA team in the last five seasons. In that time, Embiid made four All-NBA second teams and Gobert made three All-NBA third teams.

No Olympic team other than the U.S. has ever had two reigning All-NBA players on its roster.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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LA 2028, Delta unveil first-of-its-kind emblems for Olympics, Paralympics

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Emblems for the 2028 Los Angeles Games that include logos of Delta Air Lines is the first integration of its kind in Olympic and Paralympic history.

Organizers released the latest set of emblems for the LA 2028 Olympics and Paralympics on Thursday, each with a Delta symbol occupying the “A” spot in LA 28.

Two years ago, the LA 2028 logo concept was unveiled with an ever-changing “A” that allowed for infinite possibilities. Many athletes already created their own logos, as has NBC.

“You can make your own,” LA28 chairperson Casey Wasserman said in 2020. “There’s not one way to represent Los Angeles, and there is strength in our diverse cultures. We have to represent the creativity and imagination of Los Angeles, the diversity of our community and the big dreams the Olympic and Paralympic Games provide.”

Also in 2020, Delta was announced as LA 2028’s inaugural founding partner. Becoming the first partner to have an integrated LA 2028 emblem was “extremely important for us,” said Emmakate Young, Delta’s managing director, brand marketing and sponsorships.

“It is a symbol of our partnership with LA, our commitment to the people there, as well as those who come through LA, and a commitment to the Olympics,” she said.

The ever-changing emblem succeeds an angelic bid logo unveiled in February 2016 when the city was going for the 2024 Games, along with the slogan, “Follow the Sun.” In July 2017, the IOC made a historic double awarding of the Olympics and Paralympics — to Paris for 2024 and Los Angeles for 2028.

The U.S. will host its first Olympics and Paralympics since 2002 (and first Summer Games since 1996), ending its longest drought between hosting the Games since the 28-year gap between 1932 and 1960.

Delta began an eight-year Olympic partnership in 2021, becoming the official airline of Team USA and the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Athletes flew to this year’s Winter Games in Beijing on chartered Delta flights and will do so for every Games through at least 2028.

Previously, Delta sponsored the last two Olympics held in the U.S. — the 1996 Atlanta Games and the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.

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