At the end of Saturday night, the NCAA Women’s Swimming Championships ended.
In the background, there were rumors about gender equality in sports and the presence of a biologically male competitor in female competitions.
Backlash and Controversy
Lia Thomas of Pennsylvania participated in Saturday evening’s 100 freestyle final, finishing in eighth place with 48.18 seconds.
The transgender swimmer, who dominated the 500 freestyle on Thursday and placed fifth in the 200 freestyle on Friday, has sparked national outrage. Lia did this by swimming and qualifying on a women’s squad after three years of racing with men.
The tension in the crowd was apparent as Thomas was named as the 500 freestyle champion — and as Thomas was presented before the 200 freestyle.
The crowd booed, clapped, shouted, and yelled violently. Activists from “Save Women’s Sports” protested against Thomas by hanging a banner from the rails.
When fans yelled and cheered for Thomas during Saturday’s preliminary races, the athlete raised a smile at the audience and waved briefly.
WOW: Virginia Tech swimmer Reka Gyorgy says her finals spot was stolen from her by Lia Thomas because of "the @NCAA's decision to let someone who is not a biological female to compete." pic.twitter.com/vrtEfqZ0LW
— Mary Margaret Olohan (@MaryMargOlohan) March 20, 2022
As per ESPN, Thomas refused to attend Thursday night’s post-race news conference. The transgender swimmer would have been questioned about the backlash to a biological man in women’s sports.
Thomas’ presence on the pool surface was conspicuous; in addition to being taller than the majority of the swimmers, the athlete is wide-shouldered and has male anatomy.
In an interview with the Daily Wire on Friday, three-time Olympic gold medalist Rowdy Gaines said the college swimming community is “overwhelmingly” concerned about women’s sports justice.
Parents and Swimmers
Numerous parents interviewed supported this stance.
There were nervous moms, fathers, trainers, and swimmers who worry about raising the matter in public, for fear of facing societal penalties in a culture that is quick to cancel.
Female athletes were afraid or unwilling to express their emotions to reporters. Many of them said they were not allowed to talk to the media during the championships.
“I just don’t believe it’s fair,” said the father of a Virginia swimmer. “These young girls have worked far too hard for such treatment.”
According to the Virginia father, it has been very evident from his vantage point in the stands that parents “do not appear to be encouraging of Lia Thomas.”
Challenge Lia's eligibility to race as a woman.
If you support your woman athletes at @UVA, you should challenge the results.
Have the NCAA submit PROOF that Lia is eligible to race as a woman.
Hey @NCAA… PROVE that Lia Thomas is eligible to race as a woman.
PROVE IT. https://t.co/Y26NYy6SK5
— Larry O'Connor (@LarryOConnor) March 20, 2022
“It occurred numerous times yesterday as he completed and touched the wall,” the parent recounted. “No one clapped. When the second individual entered, the entire establishment erupted.”
Felipe Delgado, the father of a sophomore swimmer who will compete against Lia Thomas in the championships, said the NCAA should have set better rules.
He explained, “I am a believer in the existence of a gatekeeper. When the gatekeeper allows someone in who should not have been invited to the party, I believe the majority of the guilt, if there is any, will eventually land on that individual.”
Requests for a response from the NCAA have gone unanswered.