Lia Thomas, swimming as a woman for the University of Pennsylvania, won the 500-yard freestyle on Thursday at the NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships in Atlanta.
Thomas is a transgender athlete, who was for three years a member of the men’s swim team at Penn. He then took a year off, and took hormones to start living and competing as a woman, and has since joined the Penn women’s team. As a man, Thomas was in the middle of the pack for collegiate swimming, but as a woman, she entered the NCAA championships this week as the number one ranked woman swimmer.
NCAA rules allow Thomas to compete in the women’s division, even though she has all the musculature advantage of a man who has trained with men all of his life, undergoing male puberty and growing to a height of 6 foot, 3 inches. Thomas has the enormous shoulders of a man, the larger lungs of a man, and the larger hands and feet of a man.
Thomas’ swimming time was nearly two seconds faster than the next competitor, Virginia’s Emma Weyant.
Thomas’ win was met by a smattering of cheers, while when Weyant took the stand, the crowd was much more appreciative. Outside the McAuley Aquatic Center at Georgia Institute of Technology, protesters held signs imploring the NCAA to save women’s sports. A counterprotest also was present, with signs supporting transgender athletes.