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Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard’s Olympic hopes end in heartbreak

Three failed attempts for the first transgender woman to compete in the Olympic Games

Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Weightlifting
Hubbard thanks the assembled at Tokyo International Forum after her final lift in the 87+Kg women’s competition
Photo by Stanislav Krasilnikov\TASS via Getty Images

Laurel Hubbard, the New Zealand weightlifter and first transgender woman to compete in an Olympic Games, found history backlit in heartbreak. In Monday’s 87+kg women’s weightlifting competition at Tokyo International Forum, Hubbard failed to record a successful lift in the snatch, which eliminated her from the event.

In her first attempt she failed to get 120 kilograms overhead in an unsteady try where she seemed to lose her footing. The second attempt, this time at 125 kilograms, looked solid. She had a momentary struggle, similar to the first lift but recovered to get the bar overhead and steady. She dropped the weight thinking that she had made a good lift, but a majority of judges ruled it as a failed lift.

Her final attempt was the heartbreaker. Needing a successful lift to stay in the competition, she again struggled to align to raise the bar. Hubbard was the only competitor in the final group who failed to finish the event.

Weightlifting - Olympics: Day 10
Hubbard’s first try at 125kg looked good after failing an opening lift at 120kg, but the majority of judges ruled otherwise
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Hubbard made a “thank you” gesture to the crowd followed by a disappointed but graceful exit.

“Thank you so very much for your interest in my humble sporting performance tonight,” Hubbard said in a statement to reporters. “I know from a sporting perspective I did not live up to the standards I put upon myself.”

Weightlifting - Olympics: Day 10
Hubbard final attempt ended a what had been long arduous road that made sports history
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The 43-year-old weightlifter had fought back from injury in the run up to the Games. During the 2018 Commonwealth Games, she injured an elbow during a lift and it was thought that her career would be over.

She returned to competition by the 2019 International Weightlifting Federation World Championships, finishing 6th. In 2020 she won at the Weightlifting World Cup in Rome that occurred just weeks before the global Covid-19 pandemic disrupted much of world sports. That win proved crucial to her bid to qualify for the Olympics and for her selection to New Zealand’s Olympic team.

Li Wenwen of China won the gold medal for the event with an Olympic record total of 320 kilograms (705.48 pounds). Great Britain’s Emily Jade Campbell’s effort in the clean and jerk led to a surprise silver medal, clipping the USA’s Sarah Robles, who took home a bronze.