In Weight Lifting, a Historic Moment for Transgender Women

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Sarah Fischer, an Austrian lifter 23 years younger than Hubbard, however, was willing to speak in support of Hubbard. “I wanted her to make a good lift because she had such a hard background and so many people wanted her to lose,” she said. “Actually I wanted her to win a medal — that would be the best, so everybody would shut up about it.”

As the clock ticked down to the start of the competition, anxious officials from New Zealand huddled with members of the weight lifting federation and event organizers to discuss preparations for after the event. Of particular concern was how organizers and Hubbard would handle the crush of reporters there to talk with her.

During the introductions, Hubbard did not immediately appear with the nine other lifters as they stepped onstage. At the last moment, she emerged and took her place between Lee Seon-mi of South Korea and Sarah Robles of the United States. When her name was called and she stepped forward, she received light applause and a few jeers, unusual in that setting.

Hubbard, who had an outside chance at a medal, came out to lift a half-hour into the competition. Her first lift, at 120 kilograms, or about 265 pounds, came amid the sounds of camera shutters. She briefly held the bar above her head but lost control of it as it fell behind her. She shook her head and left the stage.

She missed her second and third lifts, both at 125 kilograms. On the second one, she brought the barbell above her head, but the lift was disqualified because she did not keep her arms completely straight. After her third miss, she pounded her heart, lifted her hands in the air, took a bow and walked offstage.

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Her night over, she entered a room packed with reporters to deliver an address that lasted about three minutes. Speaking haltingly at first, she thanked her supporters and acknowledged that her participation had “not been entirely without controversy.”

“I know that from a sporting perspective, I haven’t really hit the standards that I have put upon myself and perhaps the standards my country has expected of me,” she said. “But one of the things for which I am so profoundly grateful is the supporters in New Zealand that have just given me so much love and encouragement, and I think really I wish I could thank them all at this point, but there are just too many to name.”

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