Hammer Thrower Could Become First Transgender US Olympic Athlete

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

Keelin Godsey, who is poised to compete in the women's hammer throw at the United States Olympic trials Thursday, could become the first-ever transgender athlete to represent the United States at the Olympic Games, according to The New York Times.

Godsey, 28, was born female and had an extraordinary athletic career as a member of the track and field team at Bates College. Godsey racked up 16 all-American awards there, according to The Times, and placed first in the women's hammer throw at the NCAA Division III championships in 2005.

But that was back when Keelin still went by the first name Kelly. During his senior year at Bates, Godsey plunged into the difficult process of changing his gender identity, according to The Times. While he now identifies as male, he still competes as a female, and has continued to excel in the women's hammer throw, meeting the Olympic qualifying standard with a throw of 227 feet 8 inches. He'll need to place in the top three among 24 contenders in order to qualify for the Olympics.

If Godsey qualifies, he'll be the first American Olympic contender in any sport to openly identify as transgender, according to a profile about him in Sports Illustrated.

The International Olympic Committee ruled in 2004 that transgender athletes could compete in the games, according to The Associated Press.

The SI profile delved into Godsey's lifelong struggle with his gender identity. Growing up in Colorado, he was verbally and physically harassed for his masculine appearance. He now lives as a man with his fiancee in North Adams, Mass., and works by day as a physical therapist, but he has held off on the medical portion of his gender transition so that he can continue to shoot for Olympic gold (read: he hasn't taken any testosterone supplements in order to become biologically male). But he will move ahead with his gender transition once his Olympic journey has ended, whether in London or after the trials, according to The Times.

The profile touched on transgender athletes who paved the way for Godsey. There was Renee Richards, a former tennis captain at Yale who won a landmark Supreme Court case in the 1970s to play as a female in the U.S. Open after undergoing gender reassignment surgery and becoming female. Another male-to-female athlete, Lana Lawless, was denied entry into the LPGA in 2005 under a "female at birth" bylaw.

Indeed, it hasn't been easy for Godsey, either.

"I'm a female when I compete," Godsey told SI. "Every day I have to sweat, stress and freak out. How do I look? What is someone going to think of me? Is someone going to say something at a track meet?"

But his mother, Renee, told the Times that Godsey has dreamed of the Olympics for a long, long time.

"Keelin's first word was ball," she said. "Keelin always wanted to be an Olympian. Always."