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Lia Thomas Makes HISTORY By Becoming First Openly Transgender Athlete To Win Division I National Championship

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Lia Thomas Makes HISTORY By Becoming First Openly Transgender Athlete To Win Division I National Championship

Lia Thomas is the first openly transgender athlete to become Division I national champion in any sport after the swimmer posted a program-record time.

The University of Pennsylvania student, believed to be 22, competed at the NCAA Championships and finished first in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:33.24.

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Thomas, who competed on the university’s men’s team for three years before her transition in 2019, beat Virginia freshman Emma Weyant by 1.75 seconds.

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According to ESPN, the transgender UPenn swimmer posted a season-best time and Thomas was only a “little more” off of beating Katie Ledecky’s record time of 4:24.06.

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Speaking in a rare post-race interview, an emotional Thomas insisted that she tried to “ignore” the controversies surrounding her involvement in women’s sports.

“It means the world to be here,” she said.

Thomas added: “I try to ignore it as much as 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.”

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Thomas, who has been under the spotlight after bursting onto the scenes in women’s swimming, was once again met with backlash after her championship win.  

Former Good Morning Britain co-presenter Piers Morgan and Donald Trump Jr were among those to slam Thomas’ victory on Thursday night.

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“If you support this, you’re actively participating in the wilful destruction of women’s sport [and] women’s rights to fairness [and] equality. It’s shameful,” Morgan tweeted.

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Former US President Donald Trump’s son sent out in a now-deleted tweet: “Congrats bro!!! Lia Thomas picks up victory in 500 free national championship [sic].”

ESPN reports that Thomas, who turned down her requirements to be at the NCAA post-race press conference, was met with a “noticeably quiet” reception when her name was called while on the podium.

The UPenn student is expected to return to action on Friday morning for the 200-yard freestyle preliminary, with Thomas also set to compete in Saturday’s 100-yard freestyle.

Featured Image Credit: ESPN's SportsCenter/Twitter

Topics: Lia Thomas, Swimming

Adnan Riaz
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