A Victoria woman who won gold in the 2018 UCI Masters Track Cycling World Championships one month ago has faced “distractions” since her victory.

Rachel McKinnon broke barriers when she became the first transgender woman to win a world champion title. She told CTV News she wasn’t able to immediately celebrate her win because of the attention surrounding her gender identity.

“It’s hard to get death threats and not read that as hurtful. It's hard to read tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of comments of being a woman and someone calling you a man,” McKinnon said.

It was a close race; McKinnon passed her competitor just 15 metres before the finish line. But it wasn’t the second-place finisher who was vocally upset.

Jen Wagner-Assali, who finished third, called the results “definitely not fair” on Twitter.

When McKinnon saw the tweet, she looked at her race history and found she had competed against Wagner-Assali a number of times and had lost in a majority of them.


“It’s a little weird that it is unfair when she’s beaten me in 10 of 13 races. She beat me in an event earlier that week,” McKinnon explained.

Three days later Wagner-Assali tweeted that she respected McKinnon’s right to “compete within the rules,” but she was fighting to change those rules with a group of people.

Trans athletes have been able to compete in Olympic-eligible sports since 2003.

McKinnon said she recognizes people are worried that transgender people may disrupt women’s sports, but she said there hasn’t been a transgender person who’s won an Olympic medal since those rules were changed.

“This panic that trans athlete have this advantage just isn’t born out in any evidence that we have,” she explained.

McKinnon also meets all the Union Cyclist International criteria to race against other women.

"Rachel seems to have competed within those rules and she won so she should be recognized for her sporting accomplishment,” explained Paul Melia with the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports.

While McKinnon has faced immense backlash, she hopes to become a role model for other transgender people and push for greater inclusive.

“Even though the negative comments are absolutely hurtful, I try to take away that what it means is that people are paying attention and it affords opportunities for positive outcomes.”

With files from CTV Vancouver’s Ben Miljure