Olympian who lost to Lia Thomas pledges support to transgender athletes

Olympic swimming silver medallist Erica Sullivan has pledged her support to transgender athletes, despite losing to Lia Thomas at the NCAA Championships.

Thomas became the first known transgender athlete to earn a gold medal at the NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships.

Swimming for the University of Pennsylvania, she won the women’s 500-yard freestyle in four minutes 33.24 seconds.

Thomas finished in front of two silver medallists at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – Emma Weyant and Erica Sullivan.

Her participation in women’s events has evoked a deluge of toxic criticism, but Thomas has always met the eligibility standards set by the NCAA and USA Swimming.

Thomas has also received support, including from Sullivan. The Olympic 1500m freestyle silver medallist penned an opinion piece in Newsweek a day after her defeat.

“This year at the Tokyo Olympics, I saw my wildest dreams come true as I stood on the podium, an out gay silver medalist and one of the first women to swim the 1,500 meter event,” she wrote.

“I feel incredibly grateful that coming out as gay never kept me from being able to participate in the sport I love. All athletes—including transgender athletes—deserve to be respected and included, exactly as we are.”

Sullivan claimed that Thomas had been “unfairly targeted” because of her identity.

“Like anyone else in this sport, Lia has trained diligently to get to where she is and has followed all of the rules and guidelines put before her,” she said. “Like anyone else in this sport, Lia doesn’t win every time.”

“And when she does, she deserves, like anyone else in this sport, to be celebrated for her hard-won success, not labeled a cheater simply because of her identity.”

Sullivan also pointed out that there are many threats to women’s sport, and transgender athletes are not one.

“As a woman in sports, I can tell you that I know what the real threats to women’s sports are: sexual abuse and harassment, unequal pay and resources and a lack of women in leadership.

“Transgender girls and women are nowhere on this list. Women’s sports are stronger when all women—including trans women—are protected from discrimination, and free to be their true selves.”

Thomas, who started hormone replacement therapy in spring 2019, became an Ivy League champion in the 500-yard freestyle, 200-yard freestyle and 100-yard freestyle last month.

She finished fifth in the NCAA Championships 200 yard event, and is still set to compete in the 100-yard race.

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