A Virginia Tech swimmer bumped out of the NCAA finals by transgender swimmer Lia Thomas claims her spot was stolen and has publicly blasted the collegiate sports authority for letting the controversial athlete compete in the women’s division.
Hungarian-born swimmer Reka Gyorgy penned a letter to the NCAA arguing that although she is convinced Thomas is ‘no difference than me or any other D1 swimmer’ who was striving to be the best in her field, allowing her to compete is ‘disrespectful’ to biologically female swimmers.
She wrote: ‘I swam the 500 free at NCAA’s on March 17th 2022 where I got 17th which means I didn’t make it back to the finals and was first alternative. I’m a 5th year senior, I have been top 16 and top 8 before and I know how much of a privilege it is to make finals at a meet this big.
‘This is my last college meet ever and I feel frustrated. It feels like that final spot was taken away 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 the other women in the pool. One spot was taken away from the girl who got 9th in the 500 free and didn’t make it back to the A final preventing her from being all American.
‘Every event that transgender athletes competed in was one spot away from biological females throughout the meet.’
The Hungarian Olympian spoke kindly of Thomas and her efforts, but lashed the NCAA for putting both of them in what she said was an untenable position.
Gyorgy said: ‘She has pushed herself to the limit to be the best athlete she could be. 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,’ Gyorgy, 25, wrote. ‘She is doing what she is passionate about and deserves that right. On the other hand, I would like to critique the NCAA rules that allow her to compete against us, who are biologically women.’
The fifth-year senior and former Hungarian Olympian lost her spot in the NCAA finals after placing 17th in the 500-yard freestyle during Thursday’s Division I meet.
Thomas, competing on behalf of the University of Pennsylvania, finished first in Thursday’s competition, qualifying her to compete in the women’s championships where she finished in eighth place in the 100-yard freestyle race.
Gyorgy accused the sports authority of prioritizing the media narrative surrounding Thomas’ participation in the sport instead of the needs of the student-athletes.
‘The NCAA knew what was coming this past week. They knew opinions and minds will de divided and chose to do nothing,’ she slammed.
‘This week has been more about reporters, media and division in our sport than things like two women going under 21 seconds in the 50 freestyle, three women going under 50 seconds in the 100 butterfly and the first woman IN HISTORY to go under 48 seconds in the 100 backstroke.
Gyorgy argued that the outcome of Thursday’s race was ‘not a specific athlete’s fault’ but instead the ‘result of the NCAA and their lack of interest in protecting athletes.’
She called on the sports body to review its policies surrounding transgender athletes and ‘open their eyes and change these rules in the future’.
‘I ask that the NCAA takes time to think about all the other biological women in swimming, try to think how they would feel if they would be in our shoes,’ she said. ‘Make the right changes for our sport and for a better future in swimming.’
Gyorgy added that she thinks the NCAA rules regarding transgender athletes ‘doesn’t promote our support in a good way and I think it is disrespectful against the biologically females swimmers who are competing in the NCAA.’
Gyorgy’s letter was made public just days after the National Women’s Law Center was blasted for dismissing critics of Thomas as ‘misogynists.’
In a tweet published Friday, the non-profit wrote: ‘Lia Thomas deserves all the celebration for her success this season, but instead is being met with nationwide misogyny and transphobia. Lia, we need people like you. Not only as a swimmer, but to inspire women athletes—cis and trans—everywhere.’
The message also contained a link to a supportive Newsweek op-ed written by swimmer Erica Sullivan, who won silver in the 1,500 meter freestyle at Toyko 2020.
Many users took issue with tweet, as Nigel Betteridge suggested that the organization ‘need to change their name…’
A parody account of twentieth century American composer Sam Barber pointed out that ‘allowing Thomas to compete against women IS misogyny. Allowing Thomas to colonize women IS misogyny.’
Another user, going by ‘Dame Squiggs’, suggested in her tweet that The National Women’s Law Center should ‘cis off.’
On the National Women’s Law Center website, it boasts of how it ‘uses all of the tools at our disposal to push gender justice forward.’
The nonprofit, which is the latest women’s rights charity to become embroiled in the debate over trans rights, ads: ‘Our efforts span from fighting in the halls of Congress and state governments, to working in the margins of legislation drafts and legal briefs, to telling the stories of those we serve through compelling data analysis and research, as well as nationwide culture campaigns.’
On Saturday, a day after the non-profit’s original tweet, Thomas finished in eighth place in the 100-yard freestyle race at the NCAA Division I women’s championships, making for a disappointing final race of her controversial college swimming career.
Thomas, 22, swam 48.18 seconds on less than a second slower than her qualifying time of 47.37 seconds, which was a personal best.
She had come in fourth place in the preliminary race, only 0.10 seconds behind third-place University of Alabama swimmer Morgan Scott and one second behind first-place University of Virginia swimmer Gretchen Walsh.
Walsh, a freshman, came in first on Saturday night’s race, her first individual NCAA championship.
As a fifth-year senior, Thomas came into the event with the 10th fastest record, which she set at the Ivy League Championships in February.
Thomas has endured months of backlash for having what critics say is an unfair advantage. The UPenn swimmer was met with cheers, boos and notable silence during the championships races.
After the race, Thomas celebrated alongside Yale swimmer Iszac Henig, who identifies as a transgender man but has not started hormone therapy, making him eligible to compete in the women’s race. Henig tied for fifth.
Both swimmers wrote ‘Let trans kids play’ on their arms during Saturday’s races.
Hening, who said that he and Lia ‘are friends’ told ESPN that the message on the athlete’s arms was to stand in solidarity with trans athletes at all sporting levels.
‘We’re not allowed to have anything on our clothes, but the rules don’t say anything about our skin,’ he said. ‘So I took the platform I was hoping to have to say that trans athletes are just like any other athlete.’
Thomas did not speak to the media following Saturday night’s race.
Thomas has had parents and Olympian Caitlyn Jenner, 72, saying it is unfair that she is competing, because going through puberty as a boy gives her advantages that female rivals do not have.
The controversial swimmer also pulled out second place in the 200m preliminary race, but only pulled fifth in the finals, sparking claims that she is deliberately underperforming to try and take the heat off.
Throughout most of the season, Thomas has remained mum, rarely speaking about the mass amounts of criticism thrown her way. On Thursday, however, after winning first place, she told ESPN that she tries to ‘ignore’ the brutal commentary.
‘I try to ignore it as much as I can, I try to focus on my swimming, what I need to do to get ready for my races, and I just try to block out everything else,’ she said.
‘It means the world to be here, to be with two of my best friend and teammates and be able to compete.’
An activist also claimed Thomas was ‘not a woman’ from the poolside on Friday.
The UPenn swimmer was the first transgender athlete to win a Division I title after pulling in first in the 500-yard, but when the young swimmer stood on top of the podium, she was met with near-silence, while second-place winner University of Virginia swimmer Emma Weyant was met with wild applause and many deeming her the ‘real’ winner.
Thomas is competing within the rules, as she has completed a year of testosterone suppressants, as she starting to transition during the pandemic.
However, the rules will more than likely change come next season, where transgender females will have to undergo three years of suppressing testosterone in order to compete against biological women.
The NCAA ruled it would be wrong to implement the new rules mid-season, thus allowing Thomas to complete her final season.
Jenner slammed the NCAA for allowing the college student to compete.
Although she said she had ‘no problem’ with Thomas herself, Jenner said the 22-year-old ‘was taking it easy’ in the 500-yard race in order to not break Katie Ledecky’s record – which Thomas is nine seconds short of.
Earlier this month, Jenner also said its ‘just not fair’ to allow biological boys to compete in women’s sports.
‘I don’t think biological boys should compete in women’s sports – we have to protect women’s sports,’ Caitlyn said. ‘That’s the bottom line.’
Pink News slammed the reality TV star, calling her ‘anti-trans’ for her rhetoric on the UPenn swimmer.
However, Jenner didn’t shy away from the controversy and responded back on Twitter, writing: ‘No, I just had the balls to stand up for women and girls in sports,’ she wrote.
Another high-profile athlete Martina Navratilova, who is considered one of the greatest tennis players of all-time, spoke out amid Thomas’s historic victory on Thursday. She suggested transgender women who are competing against biological women should have an asterisk next to their wins.
‘It’s not about excluding transgender women from winning ever,’ the 65-year-old said. ‘But it is about not allowing them to win when they were not anywhere near winning as men.’