Trans swimmer Thomas takes women’s 500-yard NCAA title, female competitors voice frustration

by mcardinal

Chris Lange, FISM News


Lia Thomas, the transgender swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania embroiled in controversy, won the NCAA championships in the 500-yard race on Thursday.

Thomas, a biological male, defeated Virginia freshman and 2020 Olympian Emma Weyant by nearly two seconds – a large margin in the world of competitive swimming – with a time of 4:33.82, the fastest of the NCAA season so far.

Earlier, Thomas beat another Olympian, Reka Gyorgy, also from Virginia, in the prelims.

Since November, Thomas has been swimming at a rate that suggested he would easily capture national titles. In February, Thomas secured the Ivy League title in the 500-yard at Harvard’s Blodgett pool, setting a new record.

While transgender advocates are praising Thomas’ history-making win, many see it another nail in the coffin of women’s sports and a devastating blow to athletes like Weyant who cannot hope to achieve a level playing field when forced to compete with biological males. 

Thomas’ victory Thursday was met with “boos” from a portion of the crowd, with one spectator shouting “He’s a man!” according to Newsweek. A handful of others could be heard chanting “Protect girls’ sports.”  

A video taken at the Georgia Institute of Technology arena showed the crowd cheering and clapping enthusiastically for runner-up Weyant when she took the podium.

The crowd responded with less enthusiasm for Thomas, with some members of the crowd yelling “cheater” during a post-victory interview with ESPN.

Nine protesters carrying signs emblazoned with “Support fair sports for women and girls” gathered outside the McAuley Aquatic Center at Georgia Tech during the meet to demonstrate against Thomas’ participation, according to ESPN

“I came to support women and girls,” protester Jeanna Hoch told ESPN. “They do not have the same opportunities that I had. There is no single-sex competition anymore.”

One Virginia Tech swimmer told a reporter how “it’s a common conception [among female swimmers] that we are all very disappointed and frustrated” with being forced to compete against a biological male. She also revealed how devastating it was for one of her teammates who was bumped from the finals due to Thomas being allowed to participate.

Thomas appeared to shake off the negative reaction to his victory, telling ESPN, “I try to ignore it as much as I can I try to focus on my swimming — what I need to do to get ready for my races. I just try to block out everything else.”  

Thomas swam for three years at Penn as a male before joining the women’s team. Following a year of testosterone suppression treatment, he returned to the sport, competing as a woman, sparking controversy throughout the world of women’s sports.

Eleven-time NCAA All-American swimming champion Jeri Shanteau said Thomas’ dominance of women’s swimming has been devastating to his female competitors during an appearance on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” Thursday.  Shanteau relayed that some of the women cried with their coaches and parents after competing against Thomas due to “the emotional and psychological turmoil that it is taking on these women.”

“It is more than just the sport,” Shanteau told host Laura Ingraham. “It is more than losing the titles, which they are certainly losing. It is also the psychological disruption that is happening to them and the lack of support that the universities and our NCAA [are] providing them. And it is abhorrent to be a part of.”

Shanteau said her opinion “is not about hate,” but “about protecting women in all aspects, now and in the future.”

Thomas will compete in the 200-yard and 100-yard NCAA championships later this week.