News (USA)

Nonbinary runner Nikki Hiltz makes record time in qualifying for the Paris Olympics

Nikki Hiltz, left, wins gold in the women’s 1,500 meters on the final day of the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials in Eugene Sunday, June 30, 2024.
Nikki Hiltz, left, wins gold in the women’s 1,500 meters on the final day of the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials in Eugene Sunday, June 30, 2024. Photo: Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK

On Sunday, transgender runner Nikki Hiltz qualified for the U.S. Olympic team after they ran record time in the women’s 1500-meter race.

“I told myself, I’m not going to think about all the love and support [I have] until 100 meters to go,’” said Hiltz after the race.

“‘And then, at that moment, you can let it all fill you up and push you to the finish line.’ That’s exactly what I did, and I think that’s what brought me home.”

Hiltz, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, ran the distance in 3 minutes and 55.33 seconds, setting a record for the trials. They had lagged a bit behind during the race, previously falling in fourth place before they rushed to first at the very last minute. This time is the second fastest time any American competing in the women’s 1500-meter race has ever done.

They followed a similar strategy at the 2023 USA Track & Field Outdoor National Championship, where they rushed to first in the last 300 meters of the race, making them the first nonbinary champion of the event.

Hiltz said to NBC Sports, “This is bigger than just me. It’s the last day of Pride Month. … I wanted to run this one for my community. All the LGBT folks, yeah, you guys brought me home that last hundred [meters]. I could just feel the love and support.”

They had said that Elle St. Pierre, the third-place finisher and the top American at the Tokyo Olympics, pushed them to go faster. Pierre was in first for the majority of the race.

“Elle St. Pierre has elevated women’s distance running. I saw the time, and I didn’t think that was possible. We all had to rise because of her. … Awesome team we’re sending to Paris.”

Hiltz posted on Instagram following their qualification, “Woke up an Olympian. Yesterday afternoon in Eugene Oregon a childhood dream of mine came true. I’m not sure when this will fully sink in…” 

“All I know is today I’m waking up just so grateful for my people, overwhelmed by all the love and support, and filled with joy that I get to race people I deeply love and respect around a track for a living.”

Hiltz is one of few transgender athletes to make it to the Olympics. The first nonbinary athlete who competed, Quinn, competed for Canada in women’s soccer in the Tokyo Olympics in 2022. They also became the first nonbinary person to win an Olympic medal.

Hiltz had previously come out in a 2021 Instagram post on the Transgender Day of Visibility, where they said, “Hi I’m Nikki and I’m transgender. That means I don’t identify with the gender I was assigned at birth. The word I use currently to describe my gender is non-binary. The best way I can explain my gender is as fluid.”

“I’m still trying to navigate myself, but I’ve decided it’s time to share my gender fluidity with you all. Posting this is both exciting and terrifying but I am and always will be a firm believer that vulnerability and visibility are essential in creating social change and acceptance.”

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