Where is swimmer Lia Thomas from?

US swimmer Lia Thomas became the first openly transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division 1 national championship in any sport in March 2022. She won the women’s 500 yard freestyle event. She has been at the forefront of public debate about transgender women in sports in the United States.

Lia Thomas grew up in Austin, Texas and, as of 2017, majored in Economics at the University of Pennsylvania. She has now graduated from Ivy League School and plans to enroll in law school to pursue a career as a civil rights attorney. Of course she has the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris in mind.

She spoke to ABC about her Olympic dream.

“I intend to keep swimming. It has been a goal of mine for a long time to swim at the Olympics and I would love to do it.”

“I hardly went to class. I really hardly got out of bed” – Lia Thomas on her journey

Lia Thomas at the 2022 Ivy League Womens Swimming and Diving Championships (Image via Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)
Lia Thomas at the 2022 Ivy League Womens Swimming and Diving Championships (Image via Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

Lia Thomas fell in love with swimming at the age of four and attended Westlake High School. She even earned a spot on the men’s swim team at the University of Pennsylvania. However, she never really connected to her body as she got older and didn’t “feel” like she was a boy.

In her sophomore year, she struggled with deep depression and suicidal thoughts. She spoke about her transition on ABC’s Good Morning America in May this year.

“I hardly went to class. I really could hardly get out of bed. I can’t live like this anymore. i want to live again I want to be able to do things that I enjoy.”

Fear of not being able to compete in swimming made her initially reluctant to move. However, she started hormone replacement therapy at the end of the second year.

“I did HRT (hormone replacement therapy) because I knew and accepted that I might not swim anymore. I was just trying to live my life.”

She came out as a trans woman to her coaches, friends, and the University of Pennsylvania men’s and women’s teams.

She told ESPN about that moment in an interview.

“One of the most difficult moments was when I first came out to coaches and my team. I had no idea how they would react, whether they would accept me or not. I didn’t know what the end result would be. It was I had to take a leap of faith to keep swimming.”

Despite her fears, her coaches and teammates supported her.

“I’m very fortunate to have supportive coaches and teammates. After that, I went into my swimming career not knowing what was going to happen. I didn’t know how fast I would be.”

However, while her mental state greatly improved after starting hormone replacement therapy, her pelvic performance weakened.

“The mental and emotional changes actually happened very quickly. I felt a lot better mentally. I was less depressed. And I lost muscle mass and I got a lot weaker and a lot, much slower in the water.”

After following then-current NCAA guidelines that required athletes to complete a year of hormone therapy to change gender categories, Thomas began swimming on the women’s team during his senior year of college.

Lia Thomas has drawn a lot of criticism, some based on claims that she has become more successful as a swimmer. She pushed back those comments, saying the decision to move was happy and authentic, and the idea of ​​an advantage never played a part.

“We transform to be happy and authentic and our true selves. Transitioning to gain an advantage is something that never goes into our decisions.”

She added that it was unfair to restrict trans people from playing sports or restrict them to only compete with each other.

“In addition to not being able to have the full sporting experience, this is an incredible difference for trans people who already face immense discrimination in other parts of our lives.”

In an interview with Sports Illustrated in March this year, Lia Thomas added that she wants to be an inspiration to young trans kids.

“I just want to show trans kids and younger trans athletes that they are not alone. They don’t have to decide who they are and what sport they love.”

Lia Thomas also said that the highlight of her college degree was having her name called “Lia Thomas.”

“When I could actually walk across the stage and hear her say my name. It was very cool.”

Thomas also addressed criticism that she has an unfair advantage that is ruining the integrity of women’s sport.

“Trans women are not a threat to women’s sport.”

But the debate about trans women in sport will continue. There are strong opinions and arguments from both sides. It is an issue that needs to be addressed by higher authorities.

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Edited by Akshay Saraswat