Lia Thomas, a biological male who competes on the UPenn women's swim team after taking estrogen for more than 30 months, won the 500 freestyle national championship over a field of biological females in Atlanta, Georgia on Thursday.
Thomas’ time of 4:33.24, a season-best for Thomas, was also the top 500 freestyle time in college swimming.
Emma Weyant, a biological female, finished behind Thomas with a time of 4:34.99, and third place went to Erica Sullivan, who had previously won the silver medal at the Tokyo Games in the 1500-meter freestyle.
While taking the podium, fans in the crowd notable cheered louder for the second place finisher, Emma Weyant, than first place finisher Thomas.
Thams said during an interview with ESPN following the meet, "It means the world to be here."
The reporter asked Thomas, "...how did that performance measure up to your expectations coming into this meet tonight?"
Thomas answered, "I didn’t have a whole lot of expectations for this meet, I was just happy to be here, trying to race and compete as best as I could."
The reporter followed up by asking, "You’ve undoubtedly been under the spotlight over the past few months, how have you been dealing with that, and reasoning with everything?"
Thomas replied, "I try to ignore it as much as a 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."
It was no surprise to those present that Thomas won, since Thomas' height, strength, arm length, male muscle mass and bone density gave Thomas a unique advantage over the women competing in the race. Thomas was permitted to play despite US Swimming changing the rules of competition for biological males who wish to compete as women, saying that those biological males would need to take estrogen as a means to suppress their testosterone levels for 36 months prior to competition. The NCAA, which had initially deferred to US Swimming, said that wouldn't be fair to Thomas, who had not been taking estrogen for that long at the time of competition.
Thomas' teammates, and their parents have spoken out against Thomas' participation on the women's swim team, saying that because Thomas is male, and it's a women's swim team, Thomas should not be on it. These parents and teammates have spoken on condition of anonymity out of fears that their claims that biological males who say they are women compete unfairly against women will penalize them, or their daughters.
Thomas has stated that Thomas would like to compete for the US Olympic women's swim team. "I am a woman," Thomas said, despite being a biological male in every conceivable way.
Earlier in the day, following Thomas’ performance in the qualifying round for the tournament, a Virginia Tech swimmer has become the one of the first to publicly speak out against the biological male swimmer competing against women.
"It's a common conception that we are all very disappointed and frustrated with someone who is — has capabilities more than us women have to be able to compete at this level and take opportunities away from other women," the unnamed Virginia Tech swimmer told Savanah Hernandez.
"I have a teammate who did not make finals today because she was just bumped out of finals and it's heartbreaking to see someone who went through puberty as a male and has the body of a male be able to absolutely blow away the competition," she said.
Hernandez clarified later on that the teammate in question finished in 17th place, and there are 16 spots that are taken to the finals.
"She was very emotional and it's hard to see since it’s her last NCAAs and she really loves that race, and it was just heartbreaking to see that she put all their effort into it today, and with the best time that she's went in the morning session before, and still not make it back. It's hard to see someone who works every day, every night, still not be able to compete against someone like that," the swimmer said.
"Then you go into it with a mindset that you are you don't have a chance, if that makes sense," she said in regards to competing against someone like Thomas. "Like it's hard to compete against someone with the aerobic capacity the muscle development the body of a man it's hard. It's hard to think about it like that and staying positive."
Hernandez told The Post Millennial that all competitors as the event were told by coaches not to discuss the matter, not even in the locker room.
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