Lia Thomas of the University of Pennsylvania celebrated a major milestone on Thursday night. The swimming star logged a time of 4:33.24 in the 500-yard freestyle event at Thursday’s NCAA Division 1 swimming championships. That was good enough to make her a national champion.
Lia became the first known transgender athlete to ever win a national title at college athletics’ highest level. Thomas breezed by second place finisher Emma Weyant of Virginia by a solid 1.75 seconds. The victory was not without controversy.
A group known as “Save Women’s Sports” draped a vinyl banner over the railing to protest Lia’s inclusion. Lia Thomas is a transgender woman, meaning she was assigned as a male at birth. The heat was enough for Lia to decline to attend the post-meet press conference. Lia did give a statement after the race.
“It means the world to be here. I try to ignore it as much as I can. I try to focus on my swimming, what I need to do to get ready for my races. And just try to block out everything else.”
Other elite D1 swimmers showed support for Lia Thomas after her victory. The controversy has been tested in federal court as states attempted to pass laws defining gender in sports. A recent bill in Idaho was turned down by a higher court.
Another group has filed a Title IX complaint against the University of Pennsylvania. They believe Thomas should not be competing with the women’s team. Time will tell how things go in the ongoing legal battle. Regardless, Lia Thomas’ thrilling national championship win is something that no court can ever take away.
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