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'Open category' for transgender swimmers will debut at Swimming World Cup in Germany

Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Berlin Swimming World Cup will be the first event to have an "open category" for transgender swimmers after men were prohibited from women's competitions if they attempted to change genders after the age of 12.

The new category will accommodate transgender swimmers, according to Fox News, with the World Aquatics organization stating that when it "instituted its Policy on Eligibility for the Men’s and Women's Competition Categories," it was "committed to exploring the creation of an open category."

"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," World Aquatics president Husain Al Musallam also said in a statement.

The new, transgender-friendly category will feature 50-meter and 100-meter races of all types, with timed trials lasting two days.

"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 swimming body said.

In June 2022, World Aquatics, then known as the International Swimming Federation or FINA, barred transgender athletes from competing against women in elite events, except under one condition: transgender swimmers are allowed to compete against women if they have completed their transition by the age of 12.

"This is not saying that people are encouraged to transition by the age of 12. It's what the scientists are saying, that if you transition after the start of puberty, you have an advantage, which is unfair," James Pearce, spokesperson for then-FINA president Al Musallam, told the Associated Press.

"They're not saying everyone should transition by age 11; that's ridiculous. You can't transition by that age in most countries, and hopefully you wouldn't be encouraged to. Basically, what they're saying is that it is not feasible for people who have transitioned to compete without having an advantage."

The organization spent a reported six months after its announcement working on the open category — and has seemingly delivered.

At the time, FINA released a 24-page document explaining its policy decision.

This year's swimming competition will take place October 6-8, 2023, keeping with a long-standing tradition to hold the event in Berlin, Germany. No other city has hosted it before, according to the Swimming World Cup site.

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