Valentina Petrillo of Italy missed out on the 2021 Paralympics. Since then her primary goal was to be on the starting line for 2023 World Para Athletics Championships in Paris and be the first out transgender athlete to represent her country at the world championship.

Petrillo took the blocks in the women’s T12 classification (defined as vision constricted to a radius of less than five degrees) 400 meters and ended up being the first out trans woman ever to reach the podium of these championships with a bronze medal Thursday in 58.24 seconds.

Cuba’s Omara Durand maintained her unbeaten streak in major championship finals that stretched back to 2007. She earned her 31st career major championship gold in 52.82 seconds. Venezuela’s Alejandra Perez Lopez passed Petrillo in the final 50 meters to gain the silver medal.

The finish was a reversal from Tuesday’s prelim where Petrillo outran Perez down the home stretch for an automatic transfer spot to the final.

“I started out better than yesterday, however I had yesterday’s 400 on my legs and when I reached 150 I had to change pace and I couldn’t,” Petrillo told Italy’s Rai network after the race. “I saw the Venezuelan closing in lane one and I tried to recover but there was nothing left to do. It is still another fantastic day.

“My first world medal!”

Petrillo is also scheduled to compete at 200 meters with prelims Sunday and the final on Monday

The 400 meters is the first of two events of these championship for Petrillo. This Sunday she will take the track in the 200 meters, which she said often is her best event. It was also the best event of her hero in the sport, 1980 Olympic 200 meter champion and world record holder Pietro Mennea.

Just taking the track at Stade Sébastien-Charléty represented a long distance travelled for the 49-year-old sprinter. A national para athletic champion prior to starting her gender transition in 2018, she fought through federation red tape and the 2020 COVID crisis to what looked looked a chance at the Paralympics in Tokyo in 2021.

Late in the competitive season, she was reclassified into the T13 category and had to meet a different qualifying standard. Despite lowering national records and a fifth-place effort at that summer’s European Para Athletic Championships, Petrillo wasn’t on Italy’s roster for the Paralympics.

In the past year, with these championships as her target, she trained and competed with the trans athlete “debate” swirling around her efforts. During the 2023 indoor season, she won a national master’s title and earned a place in the World Masters Indoor Athletics Championship in Poland in March.

She withdrew her entry citing anti-trans invective online via Facebook.

“As an athlete, I wish good luck for the upcoming competition in which I will not participate for reasons of safety and personal safety as indicated by the organizers given the fomentation of hatred against me,” she said.

To add more fuel to the fire, World Athletics’ ban on transgender women went into effect one day before the masters championship were schedule to start, although it was unclear if World Masters Athletics would adopt the regulations.

World Para Athletics chose not to follow World Athletics’ course, and that opened the door for Petrillo.

Her successful outdoor season, including breaking Italian records at 200 and 400 meters, led to her place on a 14-member Italian team for these championship and her historic run Thursday.