Tokyo-bound British weightlifter Emily Campbell says girls do not have to “sacrifice their femininity” to become a success in the sport, amid the controversy surrounding the selection of New Zealand’s Laurel Hubbard.
Campbell, the reigning European champion, insists she has no problem with Hubbard, her rival in the 87+kg category, who is poised become the first transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics.
But she admitted the resulting headlines may not help the perception of the sport, already tarnished by a succession of drug scandals, in its continuing battle to convince young girls to take the strain.
Campbell, one of three British weightlifters selected for the Games alongside Zoe Smith and Sarah Davies, said: “To have three girls qualifying, it shows that you don’t have to sacrifice your femininity to be a weightlifter.
“You are a women in weightlifting and you can be what you want to be, and I hope that we do inspire younger girls to go into the gym and pick up a barbell.
“We are trying to promote the message of physical literacy, making sure these girls know it is healthy to go to the gym and to look after your body. If we can do that then we can do our jobs.”
But Campbell has backed the New Zealander’s right to compete and said she would seek to focus solely on her own performance rather than the higher profile Hubbard’s participation will generate in her event.
Campbell added: “She (Hubbard) is a human being and she has qualified for this competition fairly like everyone else has, following rules that we all have to abide by.
“Obviously there will be a lot of distractions but you’ve got to keep your head in the game. The only person’s performance I can control is my own, so I have to make sure I’m completely in control of that.”
Former Commonwealth Games gold medallist Smith made her Olympic debut at London 2012 but was forced to miss out on Rio 2016 due to injury.