Transgender runner, 49, wins women’s 400m bronze medal at World Para Athletics Championships in Paris
Valentina Petrillo won the bronze medal at the World Para Athletics Championships
A transgender runner wins a bronze medal during the women’s 400m at the World Para Athletics Championships in Paris.
Valentina Petrillo’s place on the podium meant Morocco’s Fatima Ezahra El-Idrisi missed out on a medal during the T12 final for visually impaired athletes.
The 49-year-old Italian runner’s victory drew some condemnation from other track and field athletes.
Canada’s former Olympic head coach Peter Eriksen called the result ‘shocking’, while Mara Yamauchi, the third-fastest British female marathon runner, told The Telegraph: ‘How many 49-year-olds are going to win a medal at world level?’
But Petrillo told the BBC: ‘It’s better to be a slow happy woman than a quick unhappy man. I don’t think I’m stealing anything from anyone.’
Valentina Petrillo won the bronze medal at the World Para Athletics Championships on July 13
Petrillo was 18 years older than any other competitor in the race
The runner was 18 years older than any other competitor in the race.
Fourth-placed El-Edrisi is 27, silver medalist Alejandra Perez Lopez of Venezuela is 25 and gold medalist Omara Durand of Cuba is 31.
Petrillo competed in the men’s nationals before transitioning in 2019. The athlete was born with Stargaard disease – a degenerative eye condition with no cure.
After transferring, the runner won the women’s 100, 200 and 400 m races at the Paralympic Championships in Italy.
Petrillo had hoped it would secure a place at the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics – but the Italian Paralympic Sports Federation refused to grant the nomination.
It did not publicly state the reason for the decision, but the Telegraph reported that it was under intense pressure from the athlete’s fellow competitors.
Earlier this year, when Petrillo won the women’s 200m race in Ancona, second-place finisher Cristina Sanulli said: ‘We don’t feel equal because Petrillo’s physique is male. So we are not running at par. While the personal path that Valentina has taken is respectable, athletically speaking it is not, and we feel very discriminated against because of that.’
According to The World Para Athletics Guidelines, ‘an athlete shall be eligible to participate in female competition if she is recognized as female by law’.
Petrillo moved in 2019. Petrillo’s wife was supportive of the athlete’s transition and they are married and living together with their two children
It adds, however, that cases involving transgender athletes will be dealt with according to International Olympic Committee guidelines.
Petrillo’s wife has been supportive since the athlete transitioned and they are married and living together with their two children.
In 2021, Petrillo, who is just 5 feet 10 inches tall and 13 pounds heavier than before transitioning. Despite winning gold in the 100m, 200m and 400m T12 events at the national championships, the 49-year-old’s times are slower than before the transition.
The athlete also previously reported side effects including being anemic, experiencing mood swings and feeling physically weak.
Petrillo said in 2020, ‘I understand the doubts, but I don’t think I have an advantage.’ ‘My performance dropped mercilessly.’
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