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UPenn nominates trans-identified swimmer Lia Thomas for ‘woman of the year’ award

Riley Gaines
University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines (right) poses next to Lia Thomas after the two athletes tied for fifth place at an NCAA Women's Swimming Championship, Mar. 17, 2022. |

The University of Pennsylvania has nominated trans-identified swimmer Lia Thomas for the National Collegiate Athletics Association’s “Woman of the Year” award. Thomas, who, after swimming on the men’s team for three years as Will Thomas, recently started competing on the women’s team.

Thomas, who garnered national headlines earlier this year as the debate about the participation of trans-identified athletes on sports teams raged in U.S. politics and other areas of society, is one of the 577 graduating student-athletes NCAA member schools have nominated for the 2022 NCAA Woman of the Year award.

“Established in 1991, the award recognizes female student-athletes who have exhausted their eligibility and distinguished themselves in their community, in athletics and in academics throughout their college careers,” the NCAA says in a statement announcing the nominations.

“As 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the NCAA Woman of the Year program is an important opportunity to honor and reflect on the impact of women on intercollegiate sports,” it adds.

Thomas has recorded the fastest times in women’s college swimming in the 200 and 500 freestyle and won a 1,650-meter freestyle event by nearly 40 seconds.

In April, Riley Gaines, a University of Kentucky swimmer, accused the NCAA of showing preferential treatment to the trans-identified athlete over her after they tied in the 200-yard freestyle at the NCAA Women’s Swimming Championship in Atlanta, Georgia.

“When we finished and I went behind the podium to collect my fifth-place trophy … they kind of blatantly told me that Lia would hold the fifth-place trophy and that I could pose with the sixth-place trophy for photos and would be mailed a fifth-place trophy in the mail,” she recalled, speaking to Fox News' opinion host Tucker Carlson at the time.

Concerns about fairness in women’s sports have prompted several states to pass laws requiring trans-identified athletes to play on sports teams that correspond with their biological sex as opposed to their chosen gender identity.

A Penn swimmer recently told The Washington Examiner that “I am typically liberal, but this is past that. This is so wrong. This doesn’t make any sense.”

Another anonymous teammate explained in a recent interview how the participation of biological men in women’s sports is affecting athletes. “They feel so discouraged because no matter how much work they put in it, they’re going to lose. Usually, they can get behind the blocks and know they out-trained all their competitors and they’re going to win and give it all they’ve got. Now they’re having to go behind the blocks knowing no matter what, they do not have the chance to win. I think that it’s really getting to everyone.”

In an op-ed, published by The Christian Post, Joseph Backholm, senior fellow for biblical worldview and strategic engagement at the Family Research Council, observed, “Americans had been convinced that denying someone else’s truth made you a bad person, and along came Lia Thomas expressing the desire to live ‘authentically’ while also claiming the differences between men and women weren’t significant enough to be concerned about.”

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