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Leah Thomas: Transgender rookie splits the world of swimming

Leah Thomas: Transgender rookie splits the world of swimming

Sports Leah Thomas

Transgender novice swears by the world of swimming

NCAA Swimming: Ivy League Swimming Finals

Leah Thomas celebrates her victory

Source: USA TODAY Sports / Paul Rutherford

Swimmer Leah Thomas became the first transgender athlete to win a college race in the United States. Although hormone therapy, it appears to have physical benefits. Her victory sparked heated debates and protests.

sEven before the last turn of the race, Leah Thomas was well on her way to winning. She spins again and revs up on the last track while crawling. Thomas finished first in the 500-yard freestyle at the US Championships by a wide margin. It was not a win like any other. The race caused such a stir in the US because it was historic: Thomas is the first transgender athlete to win a title in the NCAA’s top class.

Born with male sexual characteristics, Thomas began swimming at the age of five. I attended Westlake High School and transferred to the University of Pennsylvania in 2018. I began to wonder who I was. I felt uncomfortable, and detached from my body,” Thomas told Sports Illustrated. During this time I started hormone therapy.

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Despite this, she still had to compete with the men in the 2019/20 season. She had no chance and swam after her. Since the 22-year-old started with the women, a completely different picture has emerged, with Thomas dominating in the water. Not everyone is happy about this. Thomas’ appearance in the college championship was met with protests. Posters reading “Save Women’s Sports” can be seen. As former world tennis player Martina Navratilova, who was one of the first professional athletes to come out as a lesbian in 1980, said: “It’s not about her personally. The point is that as a man she is ranked 200, 300, 400. Now she will be the first. The rules need to change. This is not a fair fight.”

“I’m a woman like everyone else on the team.”

Thomas does not want to exclude participation in competitions, even after she spent it at the university. Her goal is the Olympic Games in Paris 2024. “I am a woman like everyone else on the team. I don’t know exactly what my future is in swimming, but I would like to continue. I want to swim and compete as I am.” Only last January, the committee decided The International Olympics (IOC) is a new set of rules designed to make it easier for transgender athletes to compete at the Games.

Protests as transgender swimmer Thomas awarded College of America title

Leah Thomas started out as a transgender athlete after hormone therapy for women. A decision that caused a lot of discussion

Source: Agence France-Presse / Joseph Prezioso

Until now, transgender and intersex athletes have had to drop below a certain level of testosterone in order to be allowed to participate in competitions. This has been deleted. Instead of a standard testosterone level for all sports, individual sports federations must decide in the future whether athletes have an unfair performance advantage.

His colleagues feel deprived

Thomas revolves around her sport and encourages other transgender athletes to get started. “I just want to show transgender kids and younger athletes that they are not alone. They don’t have to choose between who they are and the sport they like.”

NCAA Women's Swimming Championship

‘No to men who start as women’ – protests surrounding Thomas’ race

Source: AP / John Bazemore

However, Thomas will have to continue to fight prejudice and the accusation of profiting without permission. Many of her teammates believe that Thomas has an unfair physiological advantage and should be prevented from competing. After the race, Thomas received only silent applause. “I try to ignore it as much as possible, focus on my swimming and block out everything else,” she said at McCauley Aquatics Center. “I didn’t have high expectations for this competition. I was just happy to be here.”