After becoming the first trans swimmer to win an NCAA swimming championship in the 500-yard freestyle race on Thursday night, the reception she faced from fans was as if she had lost the race. As Lia Thomas accepted her award for winning the 500-yard freestyle on Thursday she was met with near silence, and even some unkind “boos”, which is just the latest sign of how people feel about the athlete’s groundbreaking path. Her journey as the first transgender NCAA athlete to compete at this high of a level has meant that she’s had to deal with a number of detractors, along with the supporters she’s gathered.
What stuck out in particular was the fact that her runner-up, Emma Weyant was met with rabid applause even though she lost to Thomas. Making matters even worse was the fact that during postgame photos, Lia Thomas was seen standing alone to the left while Weyant celebrated with her fellow competitors. Thomas’ record-breaking finishes have stoked the debate as to whether or not trans athletes should be able to compete in women’s athletics. During a race the next day, on Friday March 18th, Thomas earned a second-place finish in the 200m free swim preliminary race.
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Despite that loss to Stanford’s Taylor Ruck who was victorious in the race with a time of 1.42.09 seconds, Thomas will still be able to compete for another NCAA championship in the final. The reality is that she often has to deal with naysayers and critics, Thomas insists that they have no impact on her competitive mindset, saying in a post-swim interview that she simply ‘ignores’ them. As her career continues to progress, her ability to tune out the voices of people who disagree with her right to compete will likely become much more important.