The University of Pennsylvania has nominated transgender college swimmer Lia Thomas for the NCAA’s “Woman of the Year” honor for 2022.
According to the NCAA, Thomas, who won the 500-yard freestyle at the 2022 NCAA Women’s Division I Swimming and Diving Championships, is one of 577 graduating female student-athletes recommended by their institutions for the prestigious award.
Critics claimed she had an unfair edge participating in the women’s division even though she was born a male. She graduated from UPenn this year following a record-breaking season marred by controversy.
Caitlyn Jenner, a transgender activist and former decathlete who won an Olympic gold medal, referred to Thomas’ participation in the women’s division as “one of the worst things to happen to the trans community.”
One of the swimmer’s UPenn teammates expressed concern that the team’s victories felt “tainted.”
“I knew there would be scrutiny against me if I competed as a woman, and I was prepared for that,” the 22-year-old Texan told “Good Morning America” in her first television interview regarding the controversy surrounding her record-breaking performances in the pool.
“I aim to keep swimming … “Swimming in the Olympic trials has been my dream for a very long time, and I would love to realize it,” she said.
FINA, the governing body of international swimming, has virtually barred transgender women, including Thomas, from competing in elite women’s events.
Only swimmers who transitioned before the age of 12 are permitted to compete in women’s events under the new “gender inclusivity policy.” Additionally, the organization offered an open competition category.
Thomas is nominated for an award that “recognizes female student-athletes who have exhausted their eligibility and distinguished themselves in their community, athletics, and academics throughout their college years,” according to the NCAA’s release naming all of the finalists.
“Each year, NCAA member institutions are urged to nominate their top graduating female student-athletes for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award,” according to the organization.
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