IT is a victory that divided the crowd in Atlanta on Thursday night, with boos and cheers marking the moment transgender swimmer Lia Thomas was given the gold medal. Now sporting icon Martina Navratilova is among those weighing in on the controversial win and what it means.


What happened?

Lia Thomas became the first transgender athlete to be crowned the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) champion in swimming, taking home gold in the 500 yard freestyle swim in Atlanta, Georgia. The 22-year-old has sparked a storm of debate Stateside over the participation of transgender girls and women in sports.


Thomas is transgender?

Hailing from Texas, Thomas began swimming at five and swam on the men's team at high school from 2018 to 2019, coming out as transgender in 2019; swimming for the men's team from 2019 to 2020 while undergoing hormone therapy and then swimming on the women’s University of Pennsylvania team in 2021.



The historic gold on Thursday night has become a flashpoint in sports, with critics saying the fact Thomas went through male puberty offers an advantage in the field. The win pushed University of Virginia swimmer, Emma Weyant, 20 - who took home silver at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics - into second place.


What does Thomas say?

Thomas said after the win: “I try to ignore it as much as I can and I focus on my swimming…and just try to block out everything else.” And more than 300 current and former NCAA, Team USA and international swimmers and divers signed on to an open letter sent to the NCAA on Thursday in support of Thomas.



A teammate, who spoke to Fox News in the States anonymously, said of the win, "It's not necessarily an achievement in my mind", adding that it has "completely ruined the integrity of the sport”. The teammate said: “I think there's a way where you can still be your authentic self and be who you are and swim as who you are while not competing against women. If you had compassion for your teammates or women at all, you would admit you have an unfair advantage and not do this to women.”


And what about Navratilova?

The retired tennis star - who won 18 Grand Slams - told US show News Nation it might be an idea to "put an asterisk" next to a transgender win, "because the rules are not correct”, adding: “The solution perhaps for now is to swim in a lane; you can compete but you don't get the medal.” And former competitive swimmer for Great Britain, Sharron Davies, who won silver at the Olympics in 1980, tweeted: "If you’re an athlete, coach, retired athlete, sporting official, sports journalist or sports enthusiast & keeping your head down, ignoring this injustice, shame on you.. you are partly responsible for all those from now on that lose their places, medals & opportunities.”