Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer, has been nominated for the Woman of the Year award by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Fellow nominee Riley Gaines spoke with Fox News and called the nomination a ‘slap in the face’ for female swimmers.
Thomas has made headlines around the world in the last year for her record-breaking performances in the 200 and 500-yard freestyle races.
In addition to setting NCAA season records, Thomas dominated the Ivy League women’s championships last year, winning the 100-yard, 200-yard, and 500-yard freestyle races. She was also the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I championship.
The winner will not be announced until January 2023 (after the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics has made its decision).
However, in an interview with Good Morning America, Thomas predicted that even her nomination would face criticism.
She responded to her critics ahead of time:
“I don’t need anybody’s permission to be myself. You can’t go halfway and be like, ‘I support trans people but only to a certain point.
“If you support trans women and they’ve met all the NCAA requirements, I don’t know if you can say something like that. Trans women are not a threat to women’s sport,” the young athlete added.
The remarks come as the success of the University of Pennsylvania student has been a hot topic in the sports world. Some critics argue that she should not be permitted to compete against cisgender women because being born biologically male gives her an unfair biological advantage.
However, Thomas claims that she has lost muscle mass since transitioning. Thomas began hormone replacement therapy in 2019 after coming out to her friends and family, despite concerns about the impact it would have on her body and her ability to participate in her sport.
Following a year of hormone replacement therapy, Thomas was allowed to join the women’s swim team in accordance with NCAA policies.
In defiance of any such criticism directed at Thomas and her achievements, her college nominated her for the NCAA’s Woman of the Year award.
The NCAA Woman of the Year honours “female student-athletes who have exhausted their eligibility and distinguished themselves in their community, athletics, and academics throughout their college careers.”
The athlete has also stated that she intends to compete in the 2024 Olympics. However, as things stand, Thomas would be unable to compete because the world swimming governing body, FINA, has ruled that transgender athletes who did not transition before puberty are no longer eligible to compete.