Auckland’s exclusive Saint Kentigern Boys’ Presbyterian College has produced many star athletes over the years, but none quite as divisive as Laurel Hubbard.
Hubbard transitioned from a man to a woman in 2012 at the age of 35, after training and competing in male weightlifting competitions since she was a teenager.
Students from her 1994 graduating class remember her only as ‘Gavin’ – an academic and quiet student who spent most of his days training in the gym at their $22,000-a-year school.
The incredibly-private weightlifter was shy and awkward even then, before turning into a recluse after graduation and reappearing more than a decade later as Laurel, an athlete dominating in her new female division.
‘I can’t remember Gavin having too many friends at school. He never really seemed to fit in,’ one peer told Daily Mail Australia.
Laurel Hubbard (centre, as Gavin) attended Saint Kentigern’s Boys’ College where she captained the weightlifting team in 1994
Hubbard (pictured post-transition) rarely gives interviews but told Radio New Zealand in 2017 that she just wanted to compete in the sport she loves and had ‘blocked out’ criticism
Hubbard trained for weightlifting competitions with the high school coach, who was also the deputy principal.
He captained the private all boys’ school’s weightlifting team in 1994 – the year he graduated – and came first in the 99kg over 16s Junior National Championships.
Hubbard was also second in the 108kg weight division at the Northern Region Secondary School Championships, although the 1994 yearbook reveals he was named only as a non travelling reserve for an international team which would represent New Zealand in Australia later that year.
Despite Hubbard’s clear dedication to the sport at a junior level, his results wouldn’t have qualified him for a position on the men’s senior national team.
Saint Kentigern – now a co-ed school – boasts dozens of alumni who have gone on to excel in their chosen sporting fields.
The college has dominated tennis, golf, rugby, cycling and triathlon competitions for the last decade.
Saint Kentigern dedicates social media posts and a corner of their website to congratulating former students for their on-field achievements.
Laurel just before she transitioned at 35 years old. Pictured (right) with her parents, including former Auckland Mayor Richard ‘Dick’ Hubbard’ (centre)
Laurel Hubbard (circled, as Gavin) transitioned from a man to a woman in 2012 at 35, after training and competing in male weightlifting competitions since she was a teenager
When former Saint Kentigern College student Kirstyn Goodger was selected to represent New Zealand at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, the school commended her efforts on Facebook.
Ms Goodger attended the prestigious private college after it became co-ed and joined the school’s rowing team in 2006.
Countless former students have gone on to play for New Zealand’s national rugby union team, the All Blacks, while others have been recognised for their efforts across the ditch in Australia playing rugby league.
The college has never publicly acknowledged Hubbard’s attendance at the school, but a spokeswoman wished her well for the Tokyo Olympic which begins on July 23.
‘Over the course of 60 years, the Saint Kentigern community has remained deeply respectful of its heritage, staying true to its founding Christian principles and Scottish heritage,’ the school’s webpage reads.
The spokeswoman said: ‘As with all our former students who have gone onto Olympic selection, we wish Laurel the very best for her competition.’
When former Saint Kentigern College student Kirstyn Goodger was selected to represent New Zealand at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, the school commended her efforts on Facebook
This week it was announced that transgender weightlifter from New Zealand, Laurel Hubbard (pictured), will compete in the women’s category at the Olympics
Saint Kentigern (pictured) boasts dozens of alumni who went on to excel in their chosen sporting fields. The college has dominated tennis, golf, rugby, cycling and triathlon competitions for the last decade. Pictured: Tennis courts, fields and the swimming pool
Hubbard was a gifted student and participated in classes a year above her own, making it even harder to bond with students her own age.
Laurel Hubbard (pictured before her transition) will become the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics
‘He just never really spoke to us, and we never spoke to him either,’ another Saint Kentigern alumni said.
Hubbard ‘never seemed comfortable’ among peers, struggling to bond over typical ‘boy talk’ and rarely participating in group activities.
Even classmates he was forced to share a tent with can’t recall him ever speaking a single word during school camping trips.
Hubbard’s peers say it is clear now he felt uncomfortable spending so much time in such close quarters to other boys.
‘He must’ve hated it,’ a former classmate said.
After graduation, Hubbard fell off the grid. By 2004 his father, Richard ‘Dick’ Hubbard, had been elected Mayor of Auckland.
Richard Hubbard founded Hubbard Foods and is considered the ‘Messiah of Muesli’ in New Zealand for his dominance in the breakfast cereal market.
Since transitioning to Laurel, Hubbard has maintained that she wants privacy and rarely gives media interviews.
She said she first took up the ‘archetypally male’ sport of weightlifting in an attempt to feel more masculine as she struggled with her identity, but that ‘wasn’t the case’.
Since transitioning to Laurel, Hubbard has maintained that she wants privacy and rarely gives media interviews. Pictured at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018
She said she first took up the ‘archetypally male’ sport of weightlifting in an attempt to feel more masculine, but that ‘wasn’t the case’
How Hubbard was eligible to be selected for the women’s team
Laurel Hubbard’s inclusion in the Tokyo games has divided the public, with many arguing that it is unfair given she went through puberty as a male.
But the International Olympic Committee overhauled transgender athlete guidelines in 2015, meaning competitors who have transitioned from male to female can compete in the female category without undergoing complete surgery – provided their testosterone levels are kept below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months.
Hubbard well and truly exceeded those guidelines.
New Zealand Olympic Committee chief executive, Kereyn Smith said while it was true Hubbard met the eligibility criteria, she said it was understandable that there was a debate between fairness and inclusion.
‘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,’ she said.
On Monday, Hubbard was selected to compete in the 87 kilogram-plus super heavyweight division in Tokyo.
Her selection has been met with praise by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who said Hubbard met eligibility standards set by the sport, the International Olympic Committee, and the New Zealand Olympic Committee.
But there is still plenty of outrage in the sporting community, with everyone from professional athletes to everyday sports fans and commentators arguing she has not only taken a spot from a biologically-born woman, but has an unfair advantage in the competition because she has the physical strength of a man.
New Zealand Olympic weightlifter Tracey Lambrechs has suggested two gold medals be awarded if Hubbard wins in her division, arguing it would be unfair to pit her against female competitors.
The 43-year-old Kiwi athlete (pictured), transitioned from a man to a woman in her mid 30s
Hubbard understands that her selection will be divisive – and a point of contention heading into the Olympic games.
‘When [people] are shown something that may be new and different to what they know, it’s instinctive to be defensive,’ she said during her last known interview in 2017.
‘It’s not really my job to change what they think, what they feel and what they believe. I just hope they look at the bigger picture, rather than just trusting whatever their gut may have told them.’
‘I’m just me.’
Life and career of Laurel Hubbard
1978 – Born Gavin Hubbard in 1978
1998 – Set junior record in the 105+ category with a total lift of 300kg
2001 – Stopped weightlifting due to personal issues
2012 – Began to transition as a transgender woman
2017 – Set Oceania record for snatch 131kg at the North Island Games in NZ, competing as a woman
2017 – Won silver in 90kg class at world championships in the United States
2018 – Suffered serious elbow injury at Commonwealth Games, Gold Coast
2018 – Pleaded guilty to careless driving causing injury after 2018 accident which left Australian driver with spinal injuries.
2019 – Set the Oceania women’s clean & jerk record of 154kg at the world championships in Thailand
2019 – Won two golds at the Pacific Games, in the 87kg snatch and 87kg overall
2020 – Won two golds at the Roma World Cup competition
2020 – Set the Oceania record for the snatch of 133kg at the Australian Open in Canberra