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Transgender swimmer crushes college women’s swim records

December 7, 2021 2:08am

Updated: December 7, 2021 5:50pm

A collegiate swimmer has broken two Ivy League freestyle records in her first competition as a transgender woman last weekend at the University of Akron in Ohio.

Lia Thomas, 22, a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, swam the women’s 500-yard freestyle at the Zippy Invitational swim meet on Friday at a record-shattering 4 minutes and 34.06 seconds, finishing 14 seconds ahead of a Penn teammate in second. Records rewritten include the Ivy League record, Akron’s poll record, and the Penn swim program record.

She delivered another record-breaking performance in the 200-yard freestyle the next day with a time of 1:41.93, winning the race by six seconds and setting a pool, meet, and program record.

Thomas was praised by Outsports, one of SBNation’s sites that covers LGBT players in college and professional sports, saying she was “competing her truth.”

Karleigh Webb, an author for Outsports, pointed out that the NCAA transgender student-athlete policy is over a decade old. It requires that a trans female athlete must have undergone at least one year of testosterone suppression treatment before being eligible to compete on a women’s team.

However, the NCAA guidelines do not require trans women to suppress testosterone levels below a certain level as some international sporting associations do.

This did not stop critics of transgender athletes in women’s sports from speaking up, especially given the large margins by which Thomas had won.

Linda Blade, sports performance coach and author of Unsporting: How Trans Activism and Science Denial are Destroying Sport, tweeted, “Well of course women’s records are being smashed! Lia competed as male for the free three years in #NCAA. This is not right!”

Thomas swam on Penn’s men’s swim team from 2017 to 2020 as Will Thomas, where she was also a successful freestyle swimmer.

It is unknown when Thomas began transitioning. Her last known men’s event was Nov. 16, 2019.