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Transgender swimmer seeks second college degree

Transgender swimmer seeks second college degree

A day after her historic 500-yard freestyle win, transgender swimmer Lia Thomas qualified for Friday’s 200-yard final amid protests against her participation in the US women’s college championships.

On Thursday night, the University of Pennsylvania athlete became the first transgender swimmer to win a national college title.

In Atlanta (Georgia), Thomas won the final of the 500-yard freestyle (457 meters) with a time of 4 minutes and 33.24 seconds, more than a second and a half ahead of second-placed Emma Weyant (4 :34.99).

Erica Sullivan, silver medalist last year in the 1,500 meters at the Tokyo Games, was third in 4:35.92.

Thomas’s competitors staged a protest during the awards ceremony.

As Thomas posed on the top step of the podium, with his trophy in his arms and a brief smile, Weyant moved as far away from her as possible and positioned himself alongside Sullivan and fourth-place finisher Brook Forde.

Thomas, 22, received a discreet applause from the public when she was announced as the winner while her competitors were applauded.

The participation of Thomas, who had competed in the men’s events in the past, is deeply divisive among those who consider her to have an unfair physiological advantage, including some teammates, while others defend her being able to compete freely as a woman.

A small number of protesters protested outside Atlanta’s McAuley Aquatic Center waving banners with messages such as "Support fair sport for women and girls".

A day later, Thomas finished in second place in the morning preliminaries in the 200-yard freestyle (183 meters), the final of which will be held on Friday night.

Thomas is also the 10th seed heading into Saturday’s 100-yard (91m) event.

"I try to ignore it as much as I can, I try to focus on my swimming, what I have to do to get ready for my races, and I try to block out everything else."Thomas said Thursday of the protests.

Amid global discussion in sports about the participation of transgender athletes, swimming’s governing body, USA Swimming, last month released new guidelines that include a stricter threshold for testosterone levels.

The NCAA, the body that governs national college sports, later announced that those rules would not apply to its championships, saying it would have "unfair and potentially damaging impacts" for athletes preparing for competition.

Lia Thomas began her transition in May 2019 with hormonal treatment, as she recounted on the podcast "TheSwimSwam".

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