Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard has taken a step closer to becoming the first transgender athlete to compete at an Olympics after qualification rules were changed because of Covid-19.
The New Zealander, 43, is yet to be selected for the Tokyo Games.
But the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) said Hubbard was “very likely” to be “allocated an international federation quota spot for Tokyo 2020”.
It said selection in June would then be based on further criteria.
That included “evidence of capability to finish in the top 16 at the Games, with the potential to achieve a top-eight placing”.
The rescheduled Tokyo Olympics are due to start on 23 July.
Super-heavyweight Hubbard earned silver at the 2017 World Championships, several years after her transition, and now has a world ranking of 17.
Several of her higher-ranked rivals will be missing in Tokyo because only one athlete is allowed per country in each category.
Hubbard has been eligible to compete in the Olympics as a transgender athlete since 2015 when the International Olympic Committee changed its guidelines.
Australia’s weightlifting federation complained about Hubbard’s participation at the 2018 Commonwealth Games where she eventually had to pull out because of an elbow injury.
Her chances of competing at Tokyo improved after a change in IOC qualification rules meant athletes only had to attend four competitions rather than six because of the impact of Covid-19.
In a statement, the NZOC said: “We are not in a position to comment on the likelihood of any athlete’s selection until we have the necessary evidence.
“The New Zealand team has a strong culture of inclusion and respect for all. We look forward to supporting all athletes selected to the New Zealand team in Tokyo 2020.”