A biological male competed at the Italian Indoor Masters Championship in Ancona on March 12, seizing an eighth women’s championship title in track and field.
50-year-old Valentina Petrillo competed in the 200m race for women ages 50 to 54, breaking the record for the race, which according to Reduxx, would have also been broken by the second-place finisher, female competitor Cristina Sanulli.
Statistician Marco Alciator recounted witnessing the race to Radfem Italia, saying, "When Petrillo and the four athletes enter the track, the different physicality is immediately noticeable."
Alciator noted that if Petrillo competed in the men’s division, Petrillo would have finished in 14th place, "more than two seconds behind."
Alciator stated that cheers of "Brave Cristina" could be heard from the stands at the finish followed by applause, which angered Petrillo. "At that point Petrillo loses control, he leans over and shouts two or three times: 'Dedicated to all those who want to hurt me', and here he is picked up by the referees. It must be said that I did not hear any insults or even booing towards her, the focus was on supporting the athletes."
A speaker, Alciator stated, was heard on a hot mic asking "but can it be given as a record," in reference to Petrillo’s record-breaking run.
Sanulli told Alciator that she was happy with her run, but "It would have been an Italian record but Valentina Petrillo with a time of 26.25 beat it for me."
"I also speak for most of the girls who run with me: we do not feel equal, precisely because [Petrillo's] physical structure is male, and so it is like running not at par. [...] Although the [personal] path Valentina has taken is respectable, athletically speaking it is not, and in this we feel very discriminated against," she said.
Pre-transition, Alciator said, Petrillo had won no titles. Following the most recent competition, Petrillo now has eight women’s titles.
Ahead of the competition, RadFem Italia contacted government officials to ensure that Petrillo was barred from the women’s locker rooms.
In response, Petrillo was given a dedicated changing room.
According to Reduxx, Petrillo was upset at being given a dedicated changing room, writing in a March 16 Facebook post, "In Ancona, you made me have a terrible time, it is not fair… you’ve relegated me to a ‘dedicated’ locker room," which Petrillo claimed was similar to the segregation of those called appestati, or sufferers of a plague.
In a 2021 piece by the BBC, the outlet stated that Petrillo "could this year become the first openly transgender woman to compete at the Paralympics." The next Paralympic games are set to take place in 2024, with Petrillo being a visually impaired athlete.
Petrillo won gold in the 100m, 200m, and 400m, events at the Italian Paralympic Games.
Petrillo told the BBC, "I'm happy as a woman and running as a woman is all I want. I couldn't ask for more."
"Better to be a slow happy woman than a fast unhappy man," Petrillo said.
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