Gender Issues in Athletics: Nancy Navalta

Nancy Navalta

Nancy Navalta Biography

While running the 100-meter dash at 11.44 seconds. Therefore, It’s an even more amazing feat considering how green she was. In addition, Nancy had no training.  In contrast, she just ran on sandy beaches with a sack of rocks slung over her shoulders.

However, newspapers lauded this daughter of a fisherman, this girl who went from being a stone picker from Luna to a star athlete. Above all her early wins made her eligible to join the national training program. However, some commentators began to talk about the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Nancy never did get to Atlanta. While the idea that a female newcomer can run so fast, coupled with features like her “flat chest,” “muscled physique,” and a “wispy mustache” raised suspicions that Navalta was male.

“Nobody noticed me when I was losing,” Nancy later said in a 2004 interview.* “But when I started winning, they began questioning my gender.”

Nancy Navalta Medical Condition

Then forced to undergo medical tests. Then came the Philippine Sports Commission ruling that Nancy is “genetically male.”

Jennifer Finny Boylan’s column makes relevant points regarding the inherent flaws of gender testing at sports competitions. “They measure maleness and femaleness by the wrong yardsticks, and in the process, they ruin the lives of the innocent.”

I imagine that Nancy, who now works as a college track coach, agrees.

“No one even bothered to find out how I felt about the situation,” she said. “The nation feasted on me in a mad scramble for the juicy parts.”


And scramble for “juicy parts” they did. While the newspapers that praised her humble origins and hard work turned malicious. Articles talked about her “undeveloped penis” and the absence of a uterus and ovaries. The best hope for Philippine women’s sports, they wrote, was a man.

“I am a woman,” Nancy countered. “It’s cruel to say that I’m not.”

Nancy Navalta Pictures

New Strait Times 1995
nancy navalta
Nancy Navalta today

Tagalog/Eng/Nat from APA Archive Nancy Navalta Gender

A Filipino athlete has been banned from this week’s Philippines national championships – because she won’t confirm she really is a woman.

Nancy Navalta has been competing in women’s events since she was at school, but now officials say they need proof that she really is female.

And Nancy has refused to give details of a sex test she has taken, so for now, she has to sit on the sidelines.

A man or a woman?

18-year-old runner Nancy Navalta is at the center of a controversy engulfing Philippines athletics.

No one is doubting her ability – she has won dozens of competitions – but they are doubting her sex.

She has always competed as a woman but the athletics authorities are demanding proof that she really is a woman.

And until she reveals the results of a gender test she was forced to take last year, she has been banned from competing.

For now her only involvement with athletics is as the coach of a team from Dagupan.

She wishes she could be running.

SOUNDBITE: (Tagalog)

“I miss it (running) very much.”

SUPER CAPTION: Nancy Navalta, Athlete

Navalta started running in her hometown school in Luna La Union, about 280 kilometers north of Manila, since she was in 6th grade.

The many medals and plaques hanging on the wall of the Navalta home are proof of her outstanding performance as a runner.

It was that very success that caused questions to be asked about her gender.

SOUNDBITE: (Tagalog)

“Of course I was hurt, because during the previous years that I was playing and lost, there were no questions, but when I started winning, that’s when all the questions came out. That’s’ what is making me wonder.”

SUPER CAPTION: Nancy Navalta, Athlete

Officials of the Philippine Sports Commission said that she is welcome to compete again but this time in the men’s team.

That is unless she can prove she is a woman.

SOUNDBITE: (English)

“I don’t see there’s a way for her to join the women’s team anymore because as I said, if she cannot present the gender test, she will not (be) allowed to run in any competition, local competition or foreign competition.”

SUPER CAPTION: Goh Teng Kok, President Philippine Track and Field Association

She was born and raised in this house and she says that photos of her as a child prove she was reared as a girl.

Only Nancy and her family know the outcome of the sex test and they are refusing to release the results.

They say it is too personal.

Her family and friends stood by her when the controversy broke last year and her father says they are not at all bothered by all the talk.

SOUNDBITE: (Ilocano dialect)

“It does not affect us, as far as we’re concerned, she is a girl.

SUPER CAPTION: Eugenio Navalta, Nancy’s father

Until Nancy can provide the test results to prove that she is female, she will have to be content with her role on the sidelines as team coach.

But she has not lost hope and says one day she will compete again in the women’s team.

SOUNDBITE: (Tagalog)

“I still feel I am a girl because I was born a girl, raised as a girl, educated as a girl, and registered as a girl.”

SUPER CAPTION: Nancy Navalta, Athlete

Her friends were hoping that Nancy could join them on Wednesday’s opening of the Championships but the ban stays until she reveals the test results.



Gender Issues in Athletics: Nancy Navalta 3