An All-American female swimmer is criticizing the University of Pennsylvania for nominating transgender swimmer Lia Thomas for NCAA Woman of the Year, calling it a "worthless" award due to the organization's stance on the issue.
Thomas – who sparked a worldwide debate about transgender athletes – was one of two nominations by Penn for the award, which according to NCAA.com, "recognizes female student-athletes who have exhausted their eligibility and distinguished themselves in their community, in athletics and in academics throughout their college careers." More than 550 athletes were nominated from member schools.
In March, Thomas became the first transgender woman to win an NCAA championship with a dominant performance in the women's 500-yard freestyle. Thomas swam for the men's team for three seasons.
Thomas' nomination was criticized by the University of Kentucky's Riley Gaines, who competed against Thomas at the NCAA Championships in March. Kentucky nominated Gaines for the award.
Referencing a media photo of her and Thomas at the meet, Gaines tweeted, "Being the real girl in that photo and also University of Kentucky's nominee for NCAA WOTY, this is yet another slap in the face to women. First, a female national title and now nominated for the pinnacle award in collegiate athletics.
"The @NCAA has made this award worthless," Gaines added.
Gaines was an All-American in the 200 freestyle this year and the SEC champion in the 200 freestyle and 200 butterfly.
"This award combines athletic performance with academics, service, and character," Gaines wrote. "What character has Thomas shown other than sheer selfishness and entitlement? The disrespect and disregard for the other female athletes in Thomas' interviews is eye-opening."
This award combines athletic performance with academics, service, and character. What character has Thomas shown other than sheer selfishness and entitlement? The disrespect and disregard for the other female athletes in Thomas' interviews is eye opening.— Riley Gaines (@RileyGaines) July 16, 2022
This summer, the international organization that oversees swimming competitions approved new rules prohibiting biological males from competing in women's competitions if they have gone through male puberty. The new policy by the International Swimming Federation (FINA) will prohibit swimmers such as Thomas from competing in international competitions – including the Olympics – and from being eligible for world records.
FINA cited studies showing that males have a "relative performance advantage over biological females."
"A biological female athlete cannot overcome that advantage through training or nutrition," FINA said.
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Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Kathryn Riley/Stringer
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.