Lia Thomas breaks more records with second win at Ivy League championship

Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas notched her second individual win Friday at the Ivy League championships, setting new pool and meet records in the process as she continues to inflame the debate over fairness and inclusion in women’s sports.

The University of Pennsylvania senior finished the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:43.12, more than two seconds ahead of Harvard’s Samantha Shelton, who came in second with a time of 1:45.82 at the end-of-season meet hosted by Harvard at Blodgett Pool in Boston.

The 22-year-old Thomas also set a pool record by besting the 2018 mark set by Miki Dahlke, as well as Dahlke’s 2020 meet record, according to the stat sheet posted by Swimming World.

The victory came a day after the 22-year-old swimmer won the 500 freestyle by more than seven seconds and also set a pool record, drawing cheers from LGBTQ advocates while providing ammunition to critics who have decried her participation as unfair to female-born athletes.

“We are witnessing firsthand the end of women’s sports as we know them,” the Independent Women’s Forum tweeted.

Ana Paula Henkel, a Brazilian volleyball and beach volleyball star who competed in four Olympic games, said Friday the decision to allow Thomas to compete against women was “killing women’s sports.”

“Good job killing women’s sports and the level playing field,” she tweeted. “Lia Thomas can and should be embraced in society for what she wants to be, but that doesn’t change her male biological condition in sports. Shame on you for not protecting female athletes and fairness. This is cheating.”

Thomas met the NCAA’s transgender-eligibility standard requiring male-to-female athletes to undergo testosterone suppression for at least a year before competition, but women’s sports advocates have argued that the criterion fails to account for the biological-male advantage.

Penn senior Andie Myers showed her support Thursday for Thomas by wearing a face mask with a transgender flag, according to ESPN.

“I want everyone at this meet to know that I support her,” Myers said. “She’s worked for all of this and she’s given up so much to transition and to be authentically herself. I think it’s really important and I think it’s really brave what she’s doing today.”

Swimming World editor-in-chief John Lohn said that Thomas’ time in the race’s final 50 yards “appears to be the fastest in history,” fueling speculation that Thomas held back until the end to avoid blowing the competition out of the water.

“Thomas’ best for the season is her 1:41.93 outing from early December and it is highly likely that Thomas is sandbagging her races in order to avoid the additional attention she would garner with faster times,” Lohn said in his Friday analysis.

Thomas is also expected to be a contender in the 1,650 freestyle event scheduled for Saturday.

The Ivy League announced in January that Thomas would be able to compete at the Feb. 16-19 championships, reaffirming its “unwavering commitment to providing an inclusive environment for all student-athletes while condemning transphobia and discrimination in any form.”

The NCAA said two weeks ago that Thomas will be eligible to compete at the Division I women’s swimming championships March 16-19, raising speculation that she could make a run at collegiate records held by Olympic greats Katie Ledecky and Missy Franklin.

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