After a record-breaking season in the spotlight, Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania, claimed NCAA championship gold in the 500-yard freestyle Thursday.
Thomas also reached the finals in two other events over the weekend, finishing in fifth place in the 200-yard freestyle and eighth in the 100-yard freestyle.
Thomas is the first Penn swimmer to win an NCAA individual title as a member of the women’s team. According to ESPN, Thursday’s victory makes her the first known transgender NCAA champion.
Thomas, who transitioned in 2019, previously competed for three years on the men’s team at Penn, never winning an NCAA or Ivy League title.
ESPN reported that Thomas claimed the championship Thursday amid silent protests from some in attendance, with spectators unfurling a banner reading “Save Women’s Sports.” Thomas’s success has sparked controversy in the women’s sports world with her detractors—including some teammates, in a series of anonymous letters and interviews—claiming that Thomas has an unfair biological advantage over her competition.
Amid the furor over Thomas, the NCAA adopted new policies for transgender athletes. Among the changes are requirements for trans competitors to document testosterone levels at the beginning of their sport’s season and to provide additional documentation to the NCAA six months later. The NCAA plans to fully implement new trans athlete policies in the 2023–24 academic year.