Otago University honours Hubbard

Laurel Hubbard represented New Zealand at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. Photo:...
Laurel Hubbard is believed to be the first transgender winner of the award in the event’s 113-year history. Photo: Getty Images
Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard has been named University of Otago sportswoman of the year at the Blues awards earlier this week.

Hubbard is believed to be the first transgender winner of the award in the event’s 113-year history.

The Queenstown athlete became the first openly transgender woman to compete at the Olympics when she contested the women’s 87+kg at the Tokyo Games this year.

The 43-year-old was eliminated from the event when she failed to make a successful lift in the snatch.

Her achievement was recognised with the sportswoman of the year award at University of Otago and OUSA Blues and Golds Awards on Tuesday.

In a short statement to the Otago Daily Times Hubbard said she was ‘‘grateful for all of the support and kindness received from the teaching staff and students at Otago University’’.

‘‘It is not possible for athletes to complete at the Olympic level without the encouragement and aroha of friends, family and supporters.

‘‘This award belongs to everyone who has been part of my Olympic journey.’’

Otago University Students’ Association president Michaela Waite-Harvey said the Blues awards aim to highlight Otago students excelling in their chosen sport.

‘‘We could think of no-one more worthy of sportswoman of the year than Laurel Hubbard who represented Otago and New Zealand incredibly well at this year’s Tokyo Olympics.’’

The other big winner was athlete Shay Veitch, who was named sportsman of the year.

He won the long jump-100m double at the national track and field championships in Hastings in March.

Aotearoa Maori men’s hockey representative Nick Parata was named Maori sportsperson of the year and the Otago University Tramping Club collected the sports club of the year title.

The awards were hosted in line with Covid-19 Alert Level 2 restrictions. Only winners were allowed to attend.

“It is a shame we couldn’t hold a traditional Blues and Golds Event given the restrictions and timeframes around Covid,’’ Waite-Harvey said.

‘‘However, we are happy we could provide a hybrid alternative and are very much hopeful we can do the whole nine yards next year.”

The original award of “Blues” (celebrating sporting success) has been around since 1908.

The Golds were introduced in 2002 to acknowledge excellence in arts and cultural success.

Among the 30-plus Blues recipients were Highlanders and Otago loose forward Sean Withy and Volts batsman Dale Phillips.