First transgender woman to capture NCAA Championship
It was at an NCAA Championship swim meet held at Georgia Tech in Atlanta that history was made on March 17. Transgender swimmer - Lia Thomas - won the 500 yard women's freestyle race in 4 minutes and 33.24 seconds, by a margin of over 1 second to claim the championship title.
Immediately following the victory, Thomas was interviewed poolside by ESPN.
The victory was convincing, but controversial for being the first time a transgender female has claimed an NCAA championship title. Critics believe that it proves the advantages that a transgender athlete can claim in a sport like swimming, by transitioning from male to female.
Thomas is a former male swimmer for Penn. She has followed NCAA and Ivy League rules since she began her transition in 2019 by starting hormone replacement therapy.
She has since drawn criticism and attracted negative comment for the ease with which multiple Penn State women's swimming records have been shattered by her since she transitioned.
Her status as a swimmer when she was still William Thomas and competing as a male, was not at the same level of proficiency or dominance. In a sport where physical power and endurance play such an important part, the advantages she now has seem obvious.
Ignoring the controversy
There were a few scattered protestors outside the event and within the stands some held banners with the slogan "Save Women's Sports", but the critics seemed not to deter Thomas who had this to say:
“I try to ignore it as much as I can. I try to focus on my swimming .. and just try to block out everything else.”
The criticism may not bother Thomas, but there are various angles her competing in women's sports.
An unnamed female competitor from Virginia Tech spoke out over how her teammate missed a place in the final heats having been bumped out by Thomas.
As she put it:
"It's hard to compete against someone with has the aerobic capacity, the muscle development the body development of a man - it's hard."
It seems likely that Lia Thomas will have to expect continued criticism and negativity as long as she continues to swim competitively and dominate the sport. Whether she can continue to ignore and rise above the comments remains to be seen.
What do you think about a transgender athlete being able to dominate their sport through advantages brought about through their innate physiology? Do you think competitors of Lia Thomas are right to feel that her domination of the sport is unfair? Let me know in the comments section below.