On Thursday, Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas set off a firestorm of debate across the country, by winning the 500-meter freestyle finals at the NCAA Championships in Atlanta.
The victory was history as she became the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship.
Yet, one college athlete now claims she missed out on qualifying for the finals and calls for the NCAA to amend its transgender inclusion policy.
Lia Thomas (L) poses with her first place national championship trophy.
Reka Gyorgy of Virginia Tech came in 17th place in the national qualifying event. If Thomas was not allowed to compete and win the event, she would have qualified for the championships.
After her loss and historic win, Gyorgy wrote a letter to the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) and posted it on her Instagram.
According to the screenshots posted later, she said:
“With all due respect, I would like to address something that is a problem in our sport right now and hurting athletes, especially female swimmers.
Everyone has heard and known about transgender swimmer, Lia Thomas, and her case including all the issues and concerns that her situation brought into our sport.”
She added that she “respect(s) and fully stand(s) with Thomas.”
Yet, she said that she would like to criticize the NCAA rules that allowed her to compete against biological women.
“I am convinced that she is no different than me or any other D1 swimmer who has woken up at 5am her entire life for morning practice.
She has sacrificed family vacations and holidays for a competition. She has pushed herself to the limit to be the best athlete she could be. She is doing what she is passionate about and deserves that right.” Gyorgy continues:
“On the other hand, I would like to critique the NCAA rules that allow her to compete against us, who are biological women.”
She also wrote:
“It feels like the final spot was taken from me because of the NCAA’s decision to let someone who is not a biological female compete.”
“I know you could say I had the opportunity to swim faster and make the top 16, but this situation makes it a bit different and I can’t help but be angry or sad. It hurts me, my team and other women in the pool.”
She added that she hopes the NCAA will change the rules, so that only biological females can compete against each other:
“I’m writing this letter right now in hopes that the NCAA will open their eyes and change these rules in the future.
It doesn’t promote our sport in a good way and I think it is disrespectful against the biologically female swimmers who are competing in the NCAA.”
On the other hand, Thomas, in an interview with Sports Illustrated, said she hopes her performances will be used as encouragement for other trans athletes, but added that she is “just a swimmer.”
“I just want to show trans kids and younger trans athletes that they’re not alone.
They don’t have to choose between who they are and the sport they love.”