Lia Thomas has become the first transgender swimmer to win an NCAA championship after she blitzed her rivals to win the 500-yard freestyle on Thursday, but the victory has again initiated a debate as to the Thomas’ right to compete against biologically-born women.
The University of Pennsylvania’s Thomas began the NCAA women’s swimming and diving championships as the top seed and duly delivered on expectations by touching the board first in the 500-yard freestyle event with a season-best time of 4 minutes 33.24 seconds.
Olympic silver medalist Emma Weyant came in second place more than a full second behind at 4 minutes 34.99 seconds.
“I didn’t have a whole lot of expectation for this meet,” said Thomas afterwards.
“I was just happy to be here and race and compete the best I could.”
Thomas’s win, though, didn’t come without some added controversy. The former male swimmer for Penn began the transition to female in 2019 when she started hormone replacement therapy but has become central to a heated discussion about the fairness of her status alongside biologically-born female athletes.
A number of protestors were noted outside the Georgia Tech facility which hosted the event, with some holding placards which read ‘Save Women’s Sports’ – something Thomas said she did her best to ignore.
“I try to ignore it as much as I can,” Thomas said. “I try to focus on my swimming and just try to block out everything else.”