Lia Thomas has been nominated for a prestigious women’s award

The University of Pennsylvania is facing a wave of criticism after nominating transgender swimmer Lia Thomas for the NCAA’s ‘Woman of the Year’ honor for 2022. 

Thomas has been a hugely controversial figure on the US collegiate swimming scene after she became the first transgender athlete to become a Division I NCAA champion earlier this year when she won the women’s 500-yard freestyle. 

Her success over the past several months has reignited a debate on the fairness of allowing transgender athletes to compete alongside, or against, female-born rivals, and Thomas was thought to be central to recently announced plans by swimming’s world governing body FINA to implement restrictions on trans athletes competing in the sport. 

Thomas had competed on the University of Pennsylvania’s male swimming team for three years before transitioning to the female category. 

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And amid the ongoing debate, Thomas’ award nomination has been described as a “slap in the face” to naturally-born female collegiate athletes in the United States.

This is yet another slap in the face to women,” tweeted Riley Gaines, a University of Kentucky swimmer who was nominated alongside Thomas.

First a female national title and now nominated for the pinnacle award in collegiate athletics. The NCAA has made this award worthless.

This award combines athletic performance with academics, service, and character. What character has Thomas shown other than sheer selfishness and entitlement?” she added, also accusing Thomas of having a sense of “disrespect” towards her fellow athletes.

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. https://t.co/MRCieqbltd

— Riley Gaines (@RileyGaines) July 16, 2022

@RileyGaines deserves “NCAA Woman of the Year” for sheer guts alone! The Ivy League choosing a male as their nominee is doubling down on their anti-woman campaign. Pull your daughters out and #sendyourdaughters2SEC! @SEC @UKAthletics

— Marshi Smith 🏊🏼‍♀️🇰🇷🇺🇸 (@SmithMarshi) July 15, 2022

Not enough fabulous biological women athletes, NCAA?!? What is wrong with you?!!!!!!!? https://t.co/5QAJyt0Qab

— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) July 16, 2022

The award nomination was also slammed by tennis legend Martina Navratilova, who has been a prominent critic in the issue of gender in sports. 

What is wrong with you?!!!!!!!?” she wrote, directed to the NCAA. 

Another former collegiate swimming champion, Marshi Smith, also reacted furiously, and accused the University of Pennsylvania of engaging in what she called an “anti-woman campaign.”


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Thomas, though, says that she has become accustomed to the torrent of criticism aimed towards her and says that she is more concerned with preparing for Olympic trials rather than scrolling through her social media timeline.

I knew there would be scrutiny against me if I competed as a woman, and I was prepared for that,” she said earlier this year to US television.

I intend to keep swimming … It’s been a goal of mine to swim at Olympic trials for a very long time, and I would love to see that through.” 

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