Thomas was nominated by the University of Pennsylvania as a Division I athlete for Swimming and Diving
Swimmer Lia Thomas – who has become the face of the debate on transgender women in sport – has been nominated for Woman of the Year award, sparking a severe backlash.
Thomas was nominated by the University of Pennsylvania as a Division I athlete for Swimming and Diving, according to the NCAA website which says the award honours “academic achievements, athletics excellence, community service and leadership of graduating female college athletes from all three divisions”.
The NCAA Woman of the Year panel will pick 30 honourees before revealing nine finalists. The winner is to be revealed in January 2023.
The nomination has sparked a significant backlash against the university, including from Young America’s Foundation, a conservative youth organisation. It wrote in a tweet: “UPenn must have forgotten that in order to qualify for the NCAA Woman of the Year award, one must actually be a woman. There is nothing brave about competing against people whom you have a biological advantage over.”Thomas, 22, has made headlines around the world after winning several high-profile events in the US college system. In December, in Ohio, she set records in the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle races.
Two months later, she won the 100-yard, 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle races at the Ivy League women’s championships.
Then, in March, she became the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I title after finishing first in the women’s 500-yard freestyle event and recording the fastest time of the NCAA season. With that victory, she became the first transgender athlete to win a D-I title in any sport.
Thomas’ performances have divided the sporting world, with some believing she shouldn’t be allowed to race against cisgendered women.
Despite this, Thomas says she has been swimming slower than when she was male and doesn’t believe she has an unfair advantage.
She told Good Morning America that she lost a lot of muscle mass during her transition, saying: “I don’t need anybody’s permission to be myself. “You can’t go halfway and be like, ‘I support trans people but only to a certain point’.“If you support transwomen and they’ve met all the NCAA requirements, I don’t know if you can say something like that. Trans women are not a threat to women’s sport.”
Thomas has previously confirmed she aims to compete at the 2024 Olympics.
However, the world governing body for swimming, FINA, announced earlier this year that trans women would not be allowed to compete against cisgendered women.
A total of 71 per cent of voters opted to stop trans athletes from competing in women’s elite races if they have gone through any part of the process of male puberty.
This means transgender competitors will have now had to have completed their transition by the age of 12.