Trans athlete Lia Thomas receives wave of support

Trans athlete Lia Thomas receives wave of support after ending college swimming career.

Lia Thomas wrapped up her collegiate swimming career over the weekend, with a wave of supporters attempting to drown out the hate.

Thomas has faced vitriol over her participation in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship. It comes amid an exhausting debate over trans athletes’ right to participate in sports that’s consumed state legislatures, right-wing media and conservative commentators.  

The UPenn swimmer became the first trans athlete to win an NCAA swimming championship on Friday (18 March), finishing in first place in the women’s 500-yard freestyle. She continued to swim in events throughout the weekend and ended her collegiate swimming career with an eighth place finish in the 100-yard freestyle, ESPN reported. 

After Thomas’ historic win, rival Reka Gyorgy penned an open letter complaining about her inclusion in the competition.

Gyorgy, a Virginia Tech fifth-year and former Olympian for Hungary (where trans people have no legal protections or recognition), finished 17th in the preliminary heats for the 500-yard freestyle on Thursday (17 March), behind 16 other swimmers, but singled Thomas out as the apparent reason she missed out on the final.

Gyorgy said she felt “angry” and “sad” after the NCAA allowed Thomas to compete, saying the decision “hurts me, my team and other women in the pool”. 

She called the inclusion of trans athletes “disrespectful against the biologically female swimmer who are competing in the NCAA”, and that “every event” that a trans athlete competes in means “one spot taken away from biological females throughout the meet”. 

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