'Be myself': transgender judge paddles own canoe at Tokyo Olympics

Tokyo (AFP) –


Kimberly Daniels hadn't expected to transition until after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but after the year-long pandemic postponement she is now the first openly transgender judge at a Games.

The canoe judge, whose daughter Haley competes in the canoe slalom, said Thursday she was "highly motivated" but admitted it was still "scary" being a trailblazer.

"Coming here, yes it is scary, but it is also comfortable because I can now be myself," she told reporters in Tokyo.

"Sharing that story globally is, again, scary, but I think it is important for people to understand we are just people... You have to be respectful of people first."

Daniels was speaking at an Olympics where next week, New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will become the first transgender woman athlete in Games history.

Canada's Daniels said she had initially expected to judge at the Games before transitioning, but the when the postponement was announced she was able to go ahead with the move.

And she said her daughter had encouraged her when she questioned whether she wanted to come to the Games.

Daniels announced her transition last September and said she believed there were other transgender people at the Olympic but "they just haven't come out yet".

"I was highly motivated," she added. "My goal was to be a woman. I have always wanted to be, I always have been."

Her daughter Haley, who was eliminated Wednesday in qualifiers, said there was "no manual" for the experience of supporting her father through transition.

"Kimberly is my dad and my mum is my mum," she said.

"Dad, I am really proud of you," she added at the press conference.

Daniels is judging at the Olympics at a time of debate over transgender athletes ahead of Hubbard's appearance.

The 43-year-old transitioned to female in her 30s and met all the qualification criteria for transgender athletes.

But her selection has been criticised by some other female weightlifters, who argue Hubbard has physical advantages because she experienced puberty and the earlier part of her life while male.

International Olympic Committee medical director Richard Budgett said the body has no firm rules on transgender participation, with each federation setting its own guidelines.

"Laurel Hubbard is a woman and is competing under the rules of the federation," he added.

"And we have to pay tribute to the courage and tenacity of competing and qualifying for the Games."

Daniels said she had received support from Olympic officials after announcing her transition, and was pleasantly surprised by the warm reception from Japanese volunteers.

"We are just people," she said.

"I may sound different, I may look different, but I am still a person."