Weightlifter Emily Campbell defends the right of Laurel Hubbard to compete at the Tokyo Olympics

Weightlifter Emily Campbell defends Laurel Hubbard’s Tokyo inclusion with New Zealander set to become the first openly transgender athlete to take part at the Olympics… as Team GB star insists ‘she’s qualified for this competition fairly’

British weightlifter Emily Campbell has defended the right of Laurel Hubbard to compete at the Olympics – but hopes the transgender storm does not prevent young girls from taking up the sport.

Team GB confirmed on Wednesday Campbell’s selection in the women’s superheavyweight category in Tokyo, where she will come up against Hubbard, who will be the first ever transgender athlete to compete at a Games.

The inclusion of the 43-year-old New Zealander has prompted criticism from campaign groups and some of her rival weightlifters.

However, Campbell, who is a medal contender having won European gold in April, said: ‘She’s a human being and she has feelings and she’s qualified for this competition fairly like everyone else has. The IOC has rules that we all have to abide by.

‘The only person’s performance that I can control is my one. I’ve got to make sure I’m completely in control of that and I go out in the best shape I can and have no excuses for anything. Obviously there will be a lot of distractions but you’ve got to keep your head in the game.’

Hubbard, who competed in men’s events before transitioning in 2013, goes into Tokyo ranked fourth based on qualifying, having previously won a silver medal at the 2017 World Championships.

Asked how she rated Hubbard’s chances, Campbell added: ‘I’m not sure. She hasn’t competed this year so I can only really go off the shape people are in this year.

‘My performance will give me what place I give on the day. If I give a performance that comes fourth, that’s where I come. You have to be a great sportsman in this game. You have to perform in the way you can and give everyone equal respect.’

Despite the transgender row, Campbell, 27, hopes Tokyo can shine a positive light on women’s weightlifting, with Team GB sending a record three females to the Games.

Zoe Smith and Sarah Davies are the other athletes selected and Campbell added: ‘To have three girls qualifying, it shows that you don’t have to sacrifice your femininity to be a weightlifter.

‘You are a woman that’s weightlifting and you can be what you want to be. I hope that we do inspire younger girls to go into the gym and pick up a barbell.

‘For us, we’re trying to promote the message of physical literacy, trying to make sure these girls know that it’s healthy to go to the gym and look after your body.

‘If we can inspire these girls to think that it’s the norm then we’ve definitely done our jobs. We’re here to make a stand to put GB on the map in weightlifting.’