A trans swimmer and senior at the University of Pennsylvania, who previously spent three years competing as a man, smashed two US records while competing at a weekend contest, sparking fresh claims of unfairness.
On Sunday, Lia Thomas, 22, put in an astounding performance at the Zippy Invitational Event in Akron, Ohio, that saw her finish the 1,650 yard freestyle 38 seconds ahead of her teammate Anna Sofia Kalandaze.
Thomas’s winning time was 15:59:71, with her UPenn teammate Anna Kalandaze coming second with a time of 16:37:44.
Thomas’s win was a record for the Zippy Meet, and the pool where the event took place. But she also managed to smash two US women’s swimming records during earlier races at the same event.
The first US record was broken on Friday, December 3, when Thomas won the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:34:06. She raced to victory 14 seconds ahead of Kalandaze – the swimmer she beat by 38 seconds on Sunday.
And then on Saturday, she won the 200 yard freestyle in 1:41:93 – seven seconds ahead of her nearest rival, giving her the fastest female US time ever for that race too.
It’s the first season Thomas, who was formerly named Will, has competed in the swimming meets as a transgender woman. As Will, Thomas competed on the men’s team for two full seasons.
This weekend she won three events and set three new school records including two new Ivy League records.
On Friday night, Thomas managed to win the 500-yard freestyle in 4:34.06. The result set a new record, Akron pool record, Penn school record and the Ivy League record.
On Saturday she won the 200 free with a pool, meet and program record time of 1:41.93, some 7 seconds clear of second place.
Then, on Sunday, Thomas won the 1,650 freestyle in a record time of 15:59.71. She stormed home to win the race by 38 seconds with Kalandadze paddling her way to the finish with a time of 16:37.44.
The winning result also meets The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) standard required to qualify which means Thomas will be automatically entered to compete in the national championship meet in Atlanta next March.
Thomas also took part in a 200 freestyle relay, 400 medley relay coming fourth and 50-yard freestyle sprint in which she came sixth.
But as Thomas continues to crush records in women’s events, it has also sparked outrage amid controversy surrounding transgender athletes.
It is unknown when Thomas began transitioning, but NCAA rules state she had to have completed one year of testosterone suppression treatment in order to compete.
Critics say trans female athletes can still have considerable advantages over their cisgender female rivals, because of height and weight advantages they may retain even after hormone treatment.
Thomas’s last known men’s event was November 16, 2019. Earlier this year, Thomas said she felt grateful in being allowed to keep swimming.
‘The process of coming out as being trans and continuing to swim was a lot of uncertainty and unknown around an area that’s usually really solid,’ she told Penn Today in June. ‘Realizing I was trans threw that into question. Was I going to keep swimming? What did that look like?’
Nevertheless, Thomas’ participation has led to criticism on social media. ‘This should outrage every person who’s ever advocated for women in athletics,’ wrote Jessica Cole.
‘A disgrace for all the hard working female swimmers,’ added Claude Gregory.