Lia Thomas, a male-to-female transgender swimmer for the University of Pennsylvania, has been smashing women’s collegiate swimming records left and right this season. Thomas does not intend to stop there, however. During a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, Thomas told the outlet that her goal is to qualify for the U.S. Olympic squad in 2024.
“The very simple answer is that I’m not a man,” Thomas told SI’s Robert Sanchez about swimming on the Penn women’s team. “I’m a woman, so I belong on the women’s team. Trans people deserve that same respect every other athlete gets.”
Thomas previously competed against men for three seasons but set school records after swimming against biological women one year. Thomas set pool, school and Ivy League records and is now the nation’s top “female” swimmer. In many races, Thomas has lapped the competition. The Penn swimmer often has to wait for competitors to finish in a sport where races are often decided by less than a second.
Penn’s Lia Thomas wins the 500-freestyle of the Ivy League championship, with a time of 4:37.32, a record at Harvard’s Blodgett pool. Teammate Catherine Buroker placed second, Princeton’s Ellie Marquardt third. pic.twitter.com/mgysAbSulS
— Ellie Rushing (@EllieRushing) February 18, 2022
The transgender swimmer told Sports Illustrated that the plan moving forward is to attend law school while training for the U.S. Olympic team in 2024. “I don’t know exactly what the future of my swimming will look like after this year, but I would love to continue doing it,” said the Penn senior. “I want to swim and compete as who I am.”
According to Sports Illustrated reporter Robert Sanchez, USA Swimming told him they would have no issue with Thomas joining the team so long as she met transgender requirements. USA Swimming recently revised their guidelines to allow transgender athletes to compete, opening the door for Thomas. The new rules state that: “no transgender athlete would be allowed to compete in the women’s category prior to showing that her concentration of testosterone in serum has been less than 5 nmol/L for a continuous period of 36 months.” If Thomas can meet those requirements, she would be able to compete at the expense of a qualified, biological female swimmer.
Thomas is set to compete in several high-profile races later this month, including the 100, 200 and 500 freestyle. The transgender swimmer can and likely will walk away from the Atlanta event with two national championships.