University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, a transgender woman, wants to continue to compete after college, with the 2024 U.S. Olympic trials as a goal, according to Sports Illustrated.
"I don't know exactly what the future of my swimming will look like after this year, but I would love to continue doing it," Thomas told Sports Illustrated in a story published Thursday. "I want to swim and compete as who I am."
Thomas, who set the nation's best times in the 200 (1:41.93) and 500 (4:34.06) earlier this season, has been at the heart of a debate about who gets to compete, and win, in women's sports. Before competing on the women's team, Thomas spent three seasons on the men's team at Penn.
"The very simple answer is that I'm not a man. I'm a woman, so I belong on the women's team," Thomas told SI. "Trans people deserve that same respect every other athlete gets."
Thomas, who has applied to law school, is scheduled to compete at the NCAA Women's Division I Swimming and Diving Championships in the 100-, 200- and 500-yard freestyle events. The NCAA on Feb. 10 announced Thomas would be eligible to compete in the women's championships, which take place March 16-18 in Atlanta, by being in compliance with the previous NCAA rules and after submitting a one-time serum level that proved her testosterone is under 10 nanomoles per liter.
"I just want to show trans kids and younger trans athletes that they're not alone," Thomas told SI. "They don't have to choose between who they are and the sport they love."
That includes competing in bigger events moving forward, perhaps even representing the U.S. in international competitions.
Officials from USA Swimming told Sports Illustrated that Thomas would be allowed to represent the United States in the women's category as long as she continued to meet criteria for participation.
"I've been reinvigorated," Thomas told Sports Illustrated. "I've been swimming for 17 years, but for [only] a short part of that time have I felt fully engaged. After coming out and being my authentic self, I could really start to see a future. Before I came out, I couldn't visualize a future."