Protesters target swimmer Lia Thomas after women’s NCAA championship win

On Thursday, Lia Thomas won the NCAA Division I national championship in the women’s 500-yard freestyle. She took an accomplished victory, finishing well over a second ahead of the rest of the field.

With her victory, Thomas made history. She is the first transgender athlete to win a Division I national championship in any sport in the US.  

Thomas transitioned following her junior year at the University of Pennsylvania. After two years of hormone replacement therapy, she started competing for the women’s swim team at Penn. Her participation in women’s sports followed the rules of the NCAA and Ivy League.

After success at the Zippy Invitational, people complained against Thomas, claiming she had an advantage over her fellow competitors.

Now a national champion, the Penn swimmer has received growing opposition against her performances.

Protests against Lia Thomas

Protesters gathered outside of the swimming centre, which held the national championship event. The groups’ Save Women’s Sports’ and ‘Young Women for America’ chanted against Thomas’ competing in the women’s category.

Inside the arena, Save Women’s Sports also unveiled a banner displaying the name of their protest group.

In addition, the crowd gave her a muted response as Thomas collected her first-place trophy. Contrastingly, her fellow swimmers on the podium were met with loud roars.

As a result of Thomas’ win, the phrase ‘second is the new first’ started trending on social media. Former US Department of Education Press Secretary Angela Morabito used the term in a tweet that congratulated second-placed Emma Weyant.

Others on social media went on the offensive. They stated that Thomas’ win was cheating and completely unfair on the other competitors. The argument over the potential of a physical advantage for trans athletes causes polarizing debates.

Despite all this, Thomas didn’t let the distractions get to her.

Thomas responds to criticism

In a post-race interview, the swimmer expressed gratitude for being at the event: “It means the world to be here.”

When asked about the protests, Thomas told of how she deals with the negativity.

“I try to ignore it as much as I can,” she explained. “I try to focus on my swimming, what I need to do to get ready for my races. And just try to block out everything else.”Later this week,

Lia Thomas competes in the 100 and 200-yard NCAA national championship racek.

Featured image credit: Getty