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Laurel Hubbard speaks out following historic Olympic appearance: ‘All I’ve ever wanted to be is myself’

The 43-year-old New Zealander says she doesn't think her appearance at the Olympics should be considered historic.

By Alastair James

Words: Alastair James; pictures: BBC/RNZ

Laurel Hubbard has said that all she has ever wanted is to be herself and that she doesn’t want her participation in the Tokyo Olympics to be considered ‘historic’.

In a brief post-competition interview the New Zealand weightlifter, who has made history as the first trans woman to ever compete in the Olympics, said she was looking forward to her appearance in Tokyo being the end of her career.

Her involvement has been the subject of fierce debate about trans inclusion in sport. 

“People like me are just people, we are human”

In a rare interview following her loss in the women’s weightlifting 87kg category, the New Zealander, 43, said she was grateful for the opportunity to compete in the Games, and that “All I’ve ever wanted to be is myself”.

In the video extracts show by The Guardian, Hubbard, who appears timid, says she recognises the interest in her involvement in sport but says, “in some ways I’m looking forward to this being the end of, I suppose, my journey as an athlete and the attention that comes from it.”

Hubbard has been at the centre of a debate for weeks following the announcement in June that she would be competing at the Tokyo Games. Some, including women’s sports groups have argued it isn’t fair given that Hubbard, who transitioned in 2013, should compete in a women’s category after going through male puberty.

However, many have also defended Hubbard, including her competitor on Monday (2 August), Team GB’s Emily Campbell, who said: “Nobody has broken any rules, everybody stuck to them and qualified fairly.”

Continuing, Laurel Hubbard said she hasn’t dwelled on the negative coverage as, “it makes a hard job even harder.” She adds, “It’s hard enough lifting a barbell but if you’re putting more weight on it, it makes it an impossible task really.”

She puts a lot of this coverage down to emotion, rather than “evidence or principle”, and believes the negativity is borne out of “fear or discomfort”. She said: “I hope that in time they will open themselves up to a broader perspective.”

On the idea of being a role model for people, Hubbard disagrees, instead saying that she can act as a form of encouragement for those struggling in any area of life, so people can see there are opportunities to “live authentically and as we are”.

She finishes by saying simply: “I don’t think it should be historic. I think that as we move into a new and more understanding world that people are starting to realise that people like me are just people, we are human, and as such I hope that just by being here that’s enough.”

“Everyone agrees that trans women are women”

The 43-year-old sadly had an early exit from the Tokyo Olympics after being unable to register a lift after three attempts. On Monday (2 August) she thanked the Olympics for being “inclusive and accessible”

Last week the IOC praised Hubbard for her “courage and tenacity” in preparing for the games, with their medical and science director, Dr. Richard Budgett, saying “everyone agrees that trans women are women”.

However, on Friday (30 July) Budgett also indicated that changes to the rules around trans athletes were imminent as the science since the 2015 guidelines were issued had moved on. He also maintained that inclusion was key to sport.

Watch the clipped interview below:

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