Swimmer Lia Thomas Scores a Big First

She's the first transgender athlete to win NCAA Division I title
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 17, 2022 10:18 PM CDT
Lia Thomas Scores a Big First for Transgender Athletes
Pennsylvania's Lia Thomas waits for a preliminary heat in the Women's NCAA 500-yard freestyle swimming championship start Thursday, March 17, 2022, in at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.   (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Lia Thomas won the 500-yard freestyle event at the NCAA Division I women's swimming and diving championships Thursday night in Atlanta, becoming the first known transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I title in any sport, WSVN reports. The University of Pennsylvania swimmer told ESPN after the race that "it means the world to be here." Thomas, who has become a lightning rod due to her place on the women's team after swimming for the men's team before she transitioned, added, "I try to ignore (negative comments) as much as I can. I try to focus on my swimming and what I need to do to get ready for my races and block out everything else."

Even so, the controversy followed her to the championships, with some jeers (and one cry of "cheater") being heard from the crowd, and a "Save Women's Sports" banner being draped over a railing. The crowd was "noticeably" quiet when she was introduced and again when she was named as the winner, per ESPN. Virginia freshman Emma Weyant came in second, and one of her teammates told ESPN, "Any hate is unnecessary. We need to look at it as we're all competitors right now. We're focused on ourselves and our team. Our first and foremost goal is to win a national title." (More Lia Thomas stories.)

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