2023 WORLD AQUATICS SWIMMING WORLD CUP – BERLIN
The recently-released entry lists for the opening Berlin stop of the 2023 Swimming World Cup series featured many big names, including World Record holders, Olympic gold medalists, and World Champions.
What it did not include, however, was any entries into the newly-created ‘open category,’ designed by World Aquatics to address a global fervor surrounding transgender athletes in sports.
World Aquatics committed to holding races in at least the 50 and 100 meter distances of all four strokes, with more races to be added if necessary.
“Following the close of registration for the Open Category competitions at the World Aquatics Swimming World Cup – Berlin 2023 meet scheduled for 6-8 October, World Aquatics can confirm that no entries have been received for the Open Category events,” AQUA said in a statement. “The World Aquatics Open Category Working Group will continue its work and engagement with the aquatics community on Open Category events.”
“Even if there is no current demand at the elite level, the working group is planning to look at the possibility of including Open Category races at Masters events in the future.”
The outcome highlights what has been one of the primary critiques of adding a third category to sporting competition. In spite of the outsized attention the issue has had, the incidence of transgender women competing against women in elite sport is exceedingly rare. The only out transgender woman who has competed at a high level of women’s swimming is Lia Thomas, who won an NCAA title in the 500 yard free in 2022 in 4:33.24.
While she had indicated in interviews the desire to pursue an international swimming career, Thomas has not competed since those NCAA Championships. USA Swimming rules regarding transgender participation, created in response to Thomas, would create additional hurdles for her participation against women in national or international level meets.
There are no known transgender women who have competed in women’s races at any World Aquatics events.
“For this inaugural event, the emphasis is on gaining further experience for future development and celebrating diversity,” World Aquatics said when they announced the category.
World Aquatics did not label the category as being specifically for transgender women, though that was the impetus for its creation. All swimmers, including cis-gender men and women, were eligible for the open category, but ultimately nobody chose to enter those events.
The registration deadlines for the Athens and Budapest stops of the World Cup are still upcoming.