University of Pennsylvania swimmer Leah Thomas, a transgender woman, wants to continue competing after college, with the goal of the 2024 U.S. Olympic Games, according to Sports Illustrated.
“I don’t know exactly what the future of my swimming will look like after this year, but I would like to keep doing it,” Thomas told Sports Illustrated in an article published Thursday. “I want to swim and compete the way I am.”
Thomas, who set the nation’s best times at 200 (1: 41.93) and 500 (4: 34.06) earlier this season, was at the center of a debate over who could compete and win in women’s sports. Before competing in the women’s team, Thomas spent three seasons in the men’s team in Penn.
“The very simple answer is that I’m not a man. I’m a woman, so I belong to the women’s team,” Thomas told SI. “Trans people deserve the same respect that every other athlete receives.”
Thomas, who has applied to law school, must compete in the NCAA Division I Swimming and Diving Championships in the 100, 200 and 500 yard freestyle competitions. The NCAA announced on February 10 that Thomas would be eligible to compete in the Women’s Championships on March 16-18 in Atlanta, following previous NCAA rules and after submitting a single serum level that proves her testosterone is less than 10 nanomoles per liter.
“I just want to show trance kids and younger trance athletes that they are not alone,” Thomas told SI. “They don’t have to choose between who they are and the sport they love.”
This includes competing in major events ahead, perhaps even representing the United States in international competitions.
USA Swimming officials told Sports Illustrated that Thomas would be allowed to represent the United States in the women’s category as long as he continued to meet the eligibility criteria.
“I’m out of breath,” Thomas told Sports Illustrated. “I’ve been swimming for 17 years, but for [only] for a short part of that time I felt fully engaged. Once I came out and became my authentic self, I could really begin to see the future. Before I left, I couldn’t imagine the future. “