University of Pennsylvania transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has been nominated for the NCAA’s Woman of the Year Award.
Thomas is one of 577 athletes nominated for the award, according to a release from the NCAA.
“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 release read.
“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.”
Thomas made quite the impact, adding fuel to a national debate surrounding the fairness of transgender athletes competing in women’s sports.
Thomas, who swam for the men’s swimming team for three years in NCAA Division I competition, got first place in the women’s 500-yard NCAA championship in March.
Myriad athletes, including Thomas’s own teammates, have spoken out against the transgender student-athlete’s domination of women.
“You can tell he is mentally ill,” one teammate said . “I saw the video and was so disgusted.”
“Lia identified as a woman, but she is not a female,” she said. “That is a fact. It doesn’t matter how you feel.”
There must be an “asterisk” by the transgender swimmer’s name when it comes to Thomas’s success, according to tennis legend Martina Navratilova.
“It’s not about excluding transgender women from winning ever,” Navratilova said. “But it is about not allowing them to win when they were not anywhere near winning as men.”
“But right now, the rules are what they are,” she added. “Maybe put an asterisk there, if she starts breaking records left and right.”
Simply having Thomas in the pool is unfair for women who want a fair chance to win, these athletes argue.
It’s damaging, Thomas’s teammate said.
“What about the swimmers who Lia bumped out of medals at the NCAA championships? What about the girl who finished 9th and finals?” she said.
“The girl that finished 17th? The girl who finished second to Lia? What about their happiness? What about all their hard work?”
The 577 athletes nominated for the Woman of the Year Award comprise Division I, Division II, and Division III student-athletes across 23 sports.
At least 125 of those student-athletes compete in multiple sports, the report noted.
“Each year, NCAA member schools are encouraged to celebrate their top graduating female student-athletes by nominating them for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award,” according to the report.
“Up to two female student-athletes can be recognized from each school if at least one of them is an international student-athlete or student-athlete of color.”
The Woman of the Year will be named at the NCAA Convention.
Reporting from The Washington Examiner.