Lia Thomas is the focal point of a new feature article from Sports Illustrated, in which she gave a rare media interview and insight into her life as a trans woman and a swimmer as she aims for the NCAA Championships, law school and, possibly, the 2024 Olympics.
Since bursting on the scene in collegiate swimming with record-setting impact, Thomas has been much-discussed but also off the radar. Since granting an interview to SwimSwam.com in December, she has turned down multiple interview requests from outlets large and small, including Outsports.
The two interviews with Sports Illustrated contributor Robert Sanchez give new perspective on the life of the University of Pennsylvania senior.
The article — online and in an upcoming print edition — reveals personal insight on how Thomas has navigated what has been a harsh spotlight as the season progressed and the tension surrounding her grew. She did so with a sharp focus on her task at hand in the pool.
“I’ve always viewed myself as just a swimmer,” she told SI. “It’s what I’ve done for so long; it’s what I love. I don’t look into the negativity and the hate. I am here to swim.”
The article also delves into the effect the controversy has had on herself and her teammates. Thomas sought to keep her distance from the press and pressure, however notoriety and both public and private debate frayed the team.
A few team members and parents spoke anonymously for the story with more polite faire than some commentary we’ve seen prior to this.
“Lia is a human being who deserves to be treated with respect and dignity,” one Penn swimming parent stated in the article. “But it’s not transphobic to say I disagree with where she’s swimming.”
Much of the article also delves into Thomas the person. A portion of her backstory is covered here, from growing up in Austin, Texas, to a promising start with the men’s swimming team at Penn, to discovering their truth and then finding the means to live, study and compete in it.
“After coming out and being my authentic self, I could really start to see a future,” she said. “Before I came out, I couldn’t visualize a future.”
While much of the reporting on Thomas has painted an image of “Lia Thomas vs. World,” the SI article also shows support from loving parents, some fellow teammates, her school and others.
This portrait by SI brings a critical, human, three-dimensional component, just as Thomas heads to the NCAA Championships in a couple weeks, then planned law school and a possible run at a spot on the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team.
“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,” she said. “I want to swim and compete as who I am.”
We encourage you to head over to Sports Illustrated and take a look at the full article.