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Record-breaking trans swimmer Lia Thomas nominated for NCAA’s Woman of the Year

Emily Chudy July 18, 2022
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Lia Thomas in the pool

Former University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas has become a target for transphobes. (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Trans swimmer Lia Thomas has been nominated for a Woman of the Year award after smashing several sporting records in the face of cruel transphobia.

Thomas has been nominated for the award at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) after making history as the first trans woman to win an NCAA swimming championship.

In March, she ended her college swimming career, finishing in first place in the women’s 500-yard freestyle.

Despite Thomas’ successful college swimming career however, she has faced a barrage of transphobia, with former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner claiming it is “unfair” that Thomas competes in women’s sports as a trans woman.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Jenner said: “I respect [Lia’s] right to transition and I hope she has a wonderful, wonderful life. But she grew up as a biological boy and I don’t think it’s fair that she’s competing in women’s sports.”

According to Reuters, the award’s selection committee will select 10 college athletes from each of the three NCAA divisions.

Of the top 30, the committee will then announce nine finalists, with three from each division, with the winner being named in January 2023.

Lia Thomas looks on after winning the 500 Yard Freestyle during the 2022 NCAA Division I Women's Swimming and Diving Championship
Lia Thomas looks on after winning the 500 Yard Freestyle during the 2022 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championship. (Mike Comer/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Thomas’ nomination comes just weeks after elite swimming’s governing body FINA voted to effectively ban trans women from competing in women’s elite races, stating it will instead create a separate “open category”.

The new policy, which will include Olympic events, was passed with a 71 per cent majority after it was put forward to FINA members.

Transgender athletes must now have “not experienced male puberty” after the age of 12, or “beyond Tanner Stage 2 [of puberty]”, in order to be able to compete in women’s swimming competitions.

FINA president Husain Al-Musallam said: “We have to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially the women’s category at FINA competitions.

“The creation of an open category will mean that everybody has the opportunity to compete at an elite level. This has not been done before, so FINA will need to lead the way. I want all athletes to feel included in being able to develop ideas during this process.”

Thomas later clarified that trans athletes like herself are “not a threat to women’s sports”.

In an interview with ABC, she said: “Trans people don’t transition for athletics, we transition to be happy and authentic and our true selves.

“Trans women are a very small minority of all athletes. The [previous] NCAA rules regarding trans women competing in women’s sports have been around for 10-plus years.

“And we haven’t seen any massive wave of trans women dominating.”

More: Lia Thomas, ncaa, swimming

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