United Kingdom

Laurel Hubbard Tokyo Olympics: Transgender weightlifter fulfilled dreams through competiting

Laurel Hubbard is happy to return to a life of anonymity after fulfilling her dreams of competing in an Olympic Games - despite bowing out of the +87kg weightlifting division in last place.

The softly-spoken Kiwi was one of the most contentious points of the 2020 Tokyo Games after qualifying as the first transgender athlete to compete at the highest level.

She bombed out of the competition on Monday night after missing all three of her snatch attempts, making her the first in the super-heavyweight division to be eliminated.

The 43-year-old, who transitioned from male to female in her 30s in 2012, made a heart symbol with her hands, taking a moment to soak it all in before leaving the stage.

Laurel Hubbard thanked the Olympic committee for giving her an opportunity to see out her dreams as an athlete after bowing out of the +87kg women's weightlifting division

Laurel Hubbard overbalanced on her opening weight of 120kg on Monday night, taking the bar behind her shoulders.

The softly-spoken Kiwi was one of the most contentious points of the 2020 Tokyo Games after qualifying as the first transgender athlete to compete at the highest level

She is now looking forward to a lifetime of 'graceful obscurity', telling local media that she's never been interested in having a public profile or any form of notoriety.  

'I'm looking forward to my career as a pub quiz question or a trivial pursuit card,' she said.

Hubbard was greeted by a room full of reporters - all with tape recorders in hand - when she left the arena.  

She refused to do any media rounds in preparation for the games and is notoriously private, but made a short statement to the gathered crowd. 

'Sport is something that all the people around the world can do,' she said. 'It's inclusive, it's accessible and I think that's just, just really fabulous.'

She refused to take any questions.  

Hubbard, also the oldest member of the Kiwi team, said she was at peace with her performance

Hubbard smiles after the competition which she crashed out of after failing to record a single valid lift

Unlike fellow Team New Zealand competitors, Hubbard was not made available for pre-competition news conferences. 

It appears this was a conscious decision to preserve her mental health in preparation for the games ahead. 

'I know that my participation at these Games has not been entirely without controversy, but they have been just so wonderful,' she added, before thanking the crowd and leaving. 

Hubbard, also the oldest member of the Kiwi team, said she was at peace with her performance.  

The 43-year-old, who transitioned from male to female in her 30s in 2012, made a heart symbol with her hands, taking a moment to soak it all in before leaving the stage

Laurel just before she transitioned at 35 years old. Pictured (right) with her parents, including former Auckland Mayor Richard 'Dick' Hubbard' (centre)

Unlike fellow Team New Zealand competitors, Hubbard was not made available for pre-competition news conferences

'I've never been involved in sport because I'm interested in publicity or profile. If it means that I now begin to descend into graceful obscurity, I'm okay with that.'

Hubbard was the subject of intense criticism after her inclusion in the Games was announced, particularly given she'd successfully competed in male weightlifting competitions during her teens and early 20s.

Daily Mail Australia revealed she captained her high school team to glory at Auckland's exclusive Saint Kentigern Boys' College in 1994, prompting thousands of readers to argue her inclusion in the female division was distinctly unfair.

Hubbard said she understood the debate, and thanked the IOC for 'opening the door' for trans inclusion in elite sport.

'I haven't come here to change the world. I've come here because sport is part of me,' she said.

Hubbard was the subject of intense criticism after her inclusion in the Games was announced, particularly given she'd successfully competed in male weightlifting competitions during her teens and early 20s

Hubbard (circled, as Gavin in a 1993 school photo) 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 she left the arena and entered the media room, she was greeted with a room full of reporters, all with tape recorders in hand

'The IOC has tried to put in place regulations that apply to all sports. I suspect over time there will be more refinement... but it's not my area of expertise.'

Hubbard came first in the 99kg over 16s Junior National Championships and second in the 108kg weight division at the Northern Region Secondary School Championships. 

Despite her high school team's overall success, Hubbard's individual results in junior male competitions would never have been enough to qualify for a position on the men's senior national team. 

Her high school 1994 yearbook reveals Hubbard was named only as a non travelling reserve for an international team which would represent New Zealand in Australia later that year.  

Hubbard had no excuses for her showing when speaking to media after Monday night's competition, saying she enjoyed a perfect preparation.

'It comes down to the fickle nature of sport,' she said.

'As all weightlifters know, it's all very well being strong in your own time. When you're on that Olympic platform... it's a test like no other.'   

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

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

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