Transgender runner wins medal at the World Para Athletics Championship
Transgender runner, 49, wins women’s 400m bronze medal at the World Para Athletics Championships in Paris
- Valentina Petrillo won a bronze medal at the World Para Athletics Championship
A transgender runner has won a bronze medal during the women’s 400m race at the World Para Athletics Championships in Paris.
Valentina Petrillo’s place on the podium meant that Morocco’s Fatima Ezzahra El-Idrissi missed out in a medal during the T12 final for visually impaired athletes.
The 49-year-old Italian runner’s win received some condemnation from other track and field athletes.
Peter Eriksen, Canada’s former Olympic head coach, called the result ‘shocking’, while the third fastest British female marathon runner Mara Yamauchi told The Telegraph: ‘How many 49-year-olds would win medals at world level?’
But Petrillo told the BBC: ‘Better to be a slow happy woman than a fast unhappy man. I don’t feel like I’m stealing anything from anyone.’
Valentina Petrillo won a bronze medal at the World Para Athletics Championship on July 13
Petrillo was 18 years older than any other competitor within the race
The runner was 18 years older than any other competitor within the race.
El-Edrissi who came fourth is 27, silver medalist Alejandra Perez Lopez from Venuzala is 25 and gold medalist Cuba’s Omara Durand is 31.
Petrillo competed in men’s national races before transitioning in 2019. The athelte was born with Stargardt disease – a degenerative eye condition that has no cure.
After transitioning, the runner won the 100, 200 and 400 metres women’s races in Italy’s Paralympic championship.
Petrillo hoped this would result in a place at the Tokyo Paralympics in 2021 – but the Italian Disabled Sports Association refused to grant a nomination.
It did not give its reasons for the decision publicly, but the Telegraph reported that it had been under intense pressure from the athlete’s fellow competitors.
Earlier this year, when Petrillo won a 200m women’s race in Ancona, Cristina Sanulli, who finished second said: ‘We do not feel equal because Petrillo’s physical structure is male. So we are not running at par. Although the personal path that Valentina has taken is respectable, athletically speaking it is not, and because of this we feel very discriminated against.’
According to The World Para Athletics guidelines, ‘an athlete shall be eligible to compete in women’s competition if she is recognised as female by law’.
Petrillo transitioned in 2019. Petrillo’s wife was supportive as the athlete transitioned and they remain married and living together with their two children
It adds, however, that cases involving transgender athletes will be looked at in accordance with the International Olympic Committee guidelines.
Petrillo’s wife was supportive as the athlete transitioned and they remain married and living together with their two children.
In 2021, Petrillo, who is just under 5ft 10in tall and weighs 13lb heavier than before transitioning. The 49-year-old times are slower than before transitioning despite taking home gold in the 100m, 200m and 400m T12 events at the national championships.
The athlete also previously reported side-effects including being anaemic, experiencing mood swings and feeling physically weaker.
‘I understand the doubts, but I do not think I have an advantage,’ Petrillo said in 2020. ‘My performances have dropped mercilessly.’
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