Last Updated on July 18, 2022
Male-to-female transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has been nominated for 2022 NCAA Woman of the Year by the University of Pennsylvania. Thomas sparked massive controversy after demolishing a number of women’s swimming records over the past season.
Lia Thomas competed for the University of Pennsylvania’s men’s team for three seasons before transitioning and joining the woman’s squad. After middling results on the men’s team, Thomas switched genders and immediately set a number of program records.
In March, Thomas became the NCAA’s first transgender champion after winning the women’s 500-yard freestyle title.
Thomas had hoped to compete for the U.S. Olympic squad, but the world’s governing swimming body, FINA, voted last month to restrict the participation of transgender athletes in elite women’s competitions.
The move came after the transgender swimmer’s eligibility was called into question by a number of athletes and teammates. Now, much like her swimming eligibility, her nomination for “woman of the year” has generated fresh controversy.
According to the NCAA, member schools nominated a total of 577 graduating student-athletes. Each school can recognize up to two female athletes, with Thomas being one of UPenn’s selections after being nominated for swimming and diving.
According to NBC News, the Woman of the Year selection committee will select 10 student-athletes from each of the three NCAA divisions. Of the top 30, the committee will then announce nine finalists — three from each division. The winner will be named at the NCAA convention in San Antonio in January.
Riley Gaines — a former swimming star for the University of Kentucky — slammed UPenn for nominating Lia Thomas.
“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,” Gaines wrote in a quote tweet response to Outkick founder Clay Travis. “The @NCAA has made this award worthless.”
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
“This award combines athletic performance with academics, service, and character,” Gaines continued. What character has Thomas shown other than sheer selfishness and entitlement? The disrespect and disregard for the other female athletes in Thomas’ interviews is eye opening.”
Tennis star Martina Navratilova also criticized the decision to nominate Thomas. Navratilova took to Twitter to ask if there weren’t “enough fabulous biological women athletes” UPenn could have nominated for the award.