University of Pennsylvania’s (UPenn) transgender swimmer, known as Lia Thomas, won the women’s 500-yard freestyle event at the NCAA national championships in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 17. The win made Thomas, a biological male, the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I championship in any sport.
Virginia freshman Emma Weyant, a silver medalist in the 400-meter individual medley at the Tokyo Olympics, came in second, about 1.75 seconds behind Thomas. Texas freshman and Olympic silver medalist Erica Sullivan was third.
Former Press Secretary for the U.S. Department of Education Angela Morabito congratulated Weyant on Twitter, writing “second is the new first” and using the hashtag #savewomenssports.
Morabito wasn’t the only one to place her support behind Weyant rather than Thomas. In fact, The New York Times reported that “the crowd offered a raucous reception for Weyant at the awards ceremony. … Thomas, a new champion, received only polite applause.”
This is Thomas’ first year competing on the UPenn women’s swim team. He previously went by his given name, Will Thomas, and swam for the UPenn men’s team for three years before “transitioning” to a female.
Following Thomas’ March 17 win, Concerned Women for America (CWA) filed a formal civil rights complaint under Title IX with the U.S. Department of Education against UPenn “for refusing to protect the rights of college female athletes under federal law.”
“Thomas is anatomically and biologically a male with physical capacities that are different from anatomically and biologically female athletes, which extends an unfair advantage and strips female student-athletes of opportunities afforded to them by law,” the organization said in a press release. “The complaint also cites reports that Thomas’ own teammates have complained about UPenn allowing a hostile environment to fester in its locker room which has put them in apprehension.”
Put simply, “the future of women’s sports is at risk and the equal rights of female athletes are being infringed,” said Penny Nance, CEO and president of CWA.
Above: University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas (left) accepts the winning trophy for the 500-meter freestyle finals as second-place finisher Emma Weyant (center) and third-place finisher Erica Sullivan (right) watch during the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on March 17 at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire/Newscom