Mar 18, 2022 - Sports

Lia Thomas becomes first trans athlete to win NCAA Division I title

Picture of Lia Thomas

Photo: Mike Comer/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The University of Pennsylvania's Lia Thomas became the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I title after finishing first in the women's 500-yard freestyle championship, ESPN reports.

State of play: Thomas finished with a time of 4:33.24, followed by Emma Weyant, who had a time of 4:34.99. Erica Sullivan finished third at 4:35.92.

  • Thomas finished about nine seconds behind Olympian Katie Ledecky's 4:24.06 record.

What she's saying: "I didn't have a whole lot of expectation for this meet," Thomas said after the race Thursday evening, per AP. "I was just happy to be here and race and compete the best I could."

Of note: Thomas declined to participate in the NCAA-required post-race news conference, saying that she tries to "block out" distractions and tries "to focus on my swimming, what I need to do to get ready for my races," per ESPN.

  • Thomas could potentially face action by the NCAA’s swimming and diving championships committee for skipping it, AP reports.

Catch up fast: The NCAA last month cleared the way for Thomas to compete at nationals after saying it would not change its policy on eligibility requirements for trans swimmers.

  • The agency allows each sport's governing body to decide eligibility requirements.
  • USA Swimming says trans women must maintain a testosterone level below 5 nanomoles per liter for at least 36 months to be allowed to compete.

Between the lines: There is no evidence that suggests that having higher levels of testosterone gives athletes an unfair advantage.

What we’re watching: Thomas is scheduled to compete in the 200-yard freestyle on Friday and the 100-yard freestyle on Saturday.

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