Laurel Hubbard transitioned to female in 2012 and won World silver five years later (Image: REUTERS)

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When Emily Campbell first lifted a bar five years ago she could never have imagined where it would take her, writes Alex Spink in Tokyo.

The Nottingham star finds herself cast in a lead role in one of the biggest dramas of these Tokyo Olympics.

A week today she will fly the flag for Britain in weightlifting’s super-heavyweight category, a division which features the first transgender athlete to compete at the Games.

Laurel Hubbard, a 43-year old New Zealander, has been cleared to compete despite critics claiming it is unfair on fellow competitors. Hubbard competed in men's events as recently as 2013.

Campbell, crowned European champion in Moscow three months ago, refuses to cry foul as Hubbard has abided by the rules and qualified fairly.

Campbell: "I'm not a rule-maker, I don't sit on the big boards and make those decisions. That's not my job. My job is to be an athlete and to compete"
(Image: PA)

Those rules are to be reviewed by the IOC in future but, for these Olympics at least, the Kiwi is free to take part and Campbell is relishing the challenge.

“I'm looking at it in a positive way,” she said. “We've fought for so long for people to enjoy weightlifting and now you're going to get some light on the sport.

“I know the Olympics is probably the only time people do switch the weightlifting on because you end up watching random sports.

Hubbard in action for NZ at 2018 Commonwealth Games
(Image: REUTERS)

“Hopefully I can give a really good performance and hopefully they will come back and watch us again.”

Campbell, 27, was a decent university athlete until one day whilst working out in a gym a pal taught her the techniques for the snatch and clean and jerk.

“I fell into the sport,” she said. “I only wanted to get a bit stronger for the shot. Within 18 months of starting weightlifting I was winning bronze at the Commonwealth Games.

Campbell celebrates European gold in Moscow in April
(Image: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“I’m a girl who picked up a bar five years ago to have a go and have some fun. Now I’m about to represent my country on the biggest stage in the world. It’s nuts.”

Asked again about Hubbard’s controversial presence, Campbell held firm.

“You have to concentrate on yourself in this game because nobody can lift that bar for you," she said.

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“I'm not a rule-maker, I don't sit on the big boards and make those decisions. That's not my job. My job is to be an athlete and to compete.

“Nobody has broken any rules, everybody stuck to them and qualified fairly. You just have to go and compete against the girls who are out there. You can’t afford to let distractions get to you.

“If I perform as well as I know I can I hope it will bring me a personal best, a new British record – and hopefully something shiny to bring back as well.”