The 43-year-old New Zealander took part in the women’s +87 kg weightlifting final in Tokyo on Monday, among a field of 10 athletes including Britain’s Emily Campbell, who won silver behind Chinese all-conqueror Wenwen Li American Sarah Robles won bronze.
In a competition split into two sections – snatch, then clean and jerk – Hubbard failed with his three snatch attempts, quickly killing any hope for a medal. After dropping her third elevator, she waved to the auditorium, which admitted no fans but was teeming with media, officials and a few fellow Olympians and coaching staff shouting their support.
“I know from a sporting point of view I haven’t really reached the standards that I set for myself and maybe the standards that my country expects of me,” said Hubbard. “But one of the things I’m deeply grateful for is that the fans in New Zealand have given me so much and been beyond amazing.
“I want to thank the New Zealand Olympic Committee, they have supported me through what has been quite difficult times. I know that my participation in these Games has not been entirely without controversy, but they have been so wonderful and I am very grateful to them.
Assigned male at birth, Hubbard set national records in junior competition under her first name before undergoing hormone therapy and becoming transgender in 2013 at the age of 35.
She won a silver medal at the 2017 World Championships before breaking her arm at the Commonwealth Games in Australia in 2018, but returned to win gold at the 2019 Pacific Games and qualified for her first Olympic Games.
The International Olympic Committee leaves the rules for the admission of athletes to individual sports, and Hubbard has followed the 2015 guidelines of the International Weightlifting Federation that require trans athletes to take drugs to lower testosterone below 10 nanomoles per liter for 12 months before the competition.
But advocates for trans athletes in women’s sport say there isn’t enough scientific evidence on the subject to draw firm conclusions, and pointed out in Hubbard’s case that although she is very competitive, she does not systematically dominate the world stage.
Hubbard received support from the New Zealand Olympic Committee as well as the country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden, who stressed that she had followed all the rules to qualify and compete in the Olympics and deserved her place.
“I am grateful and touched by the kindness and support given to me by so many New Zealanders,” said Hubbard after being named to her country’s team for the Olympics.
“When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth Games three years ago, I was told that my athletic career was probably over. But your support, your encouragement and your love [affection] carried me through the darkness.