‘Open category’ for transgender swimmers set for debut at World Cup in Germany

Iszac Henig Lia Thomas

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The Berlin Swimming World Cup will be the first event to see an “open category” to accommodate transgender swimmers, World Aquatics said Wednesday.

World Aquatics announced last year the decision to essentially bar transgender athletes from competing against the gender they identify as. The organization said it would work to form an “open category” and it appeared its debut was set for Oct. 6-8.

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Lia Thomas and Iszac Henig

Pennsylvania Quakers swimmer Lia Thomas walks past Yale Bulldogs’ Iszac Henig during the Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships on Feb. 19, 2022, in Allston, Massachusetts. (Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“When World Aquatics instituted its Policy on Eligibility for the Men’s and Women’s Competition Categories, we committed to exploring the creation of an open category,” World Aquatics president Husain Al-Musallam said in a statement.

“True to our word, a team of experts has diligently worked to make this a reality. I would like to thank all those who have helped World Aquatics to deliver this opportunity.”

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World Aquatics said it would feature 50-meter and 100-meter races across all strokes. Open category competitors will compete over two days in timed trials.

“To be eligible, swimmers need an affiliation with a national federation and will be given the flexibility to participate individually, for their club, team or as national federation members,” the organization said.

Fukuoka 2023

Fukuoka 2023 logo during the World Aquatics Championships on July 17, 2023, in Japan. (Albert ten Hove/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Entry requirements and entry times will be laid out at a later date, the organization added.

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Lia Thomas’ emergence in the 2022 NCAA Championships shined a spotlight on the sport’s transgender inclusion policy. She became the first transgender swimmer to win a women’s championship. Yale swimmer Iszac Henig came out as a transgender male in 2021 but didn’t undergo hormone therapy and continued to swim on the Yale women’s team.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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