Lia Thomas becomes first transgender woman to win NCAA swimming championship

On Thursday, transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas took over in the last 100 yards of the 500-yard freestyle to make history as the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship.

Thomas is a senior at the university and entered the NCAA women’s swimming and diving championships at the top seed, boasting a season-best time of 4 minutes and 33.24 seconds.

“I didn’t have a whole lot of expectation for this meet,” said Thomas, who had formerly competed against male swimmers as a part of the Penn State mens’ swim team. “I was just happy to be here and race and compete the best I could.” Emma Weyant of Virginia was not far behind, though, and she took second with a time of 4:34.99.

The race was competitive until the last 100 years, as Weyant and Erica Sullivan of Texas pushing Thomas. The three were swimming in lanes three, four, and five, adding to the tense atmosphere, as Thomas took the middle lane.

As in the preliminary race on Thursday morning, which Thomas won with a time of 4:33.82, Thomas pushed through at the close of the finals race. Sullivan claimed third at 4:35.92 and Stanford’s Brooke Forde took fourth with 4:36.18. 

Thomas also held the top seed time in the 200 freestyle that was scheduled for Friday and is ranked 10th in the 100 freestyle scheduled for Saturday. Thomas had followed both NCAA and Ivy League rules since beginning the transition in 2019 by starting hormone replacement therapy.

Controversy has surrounded Thomas’ inclusion as many believe allowing Thomas, born a male, to compete against women is unfair. There were not many protesters outside the facility, but some carried banners in the stands that read “Save Women’s Sports.” 




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