Swimming her fastest career time in the NCAA’s 500-freestyle event last week just wasn’t enough to push Olympic medalist Emma Weyent into first place. Weyent, a Florida native and University of Virginia student, fell behind transgender swimmer Lia Thomas in the last 100 yards of Thursday’s event, clocking in at 4:34.99. Biological male Lia Thomas of the University of Pennsylvania finished at 4:33.24 to win first place and became the first transgender athlete to be crowned National Collegiate Athletic Associate (NCAA) champion.
Thomas’s win met with a lack of cheers from the stands, highlighting the nature of the controversial decision by the NCAA to allow biological men to compete in women’s sports. Thomas had previously competed in men’s sports until 2019. The Daily Mail reported a mix of cheers and boos for Thomas as he received his medal, in contrast to a “huge cheer” for second place winner Emma Weyent.
While Thomas has received the required hormonal treatments to comply with NCAA regulations for women’s competition, critics maintain the biological male still holds a considerable advantage over biologically female competitors. One participant from the 2022 NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championship spoke on condition of anonymity with Fox News last week. The student, who feared retribution for her opinions on men’s participation in women’s sports, regarded Thomas’s win as “not necessarily an achievement.” She said, “Women’s records are separate from men’s records. It’s its own distinct category because no woman is going to be as fast as a man, and here is just completely – we’re just throwing away the definition of a record to fit into someone else’s agenda of what it should mean to them when in reality it makes no scientific sense to do so.”
While the spotlight remains firmly fixed on Lia Thomas’s groundbreaking involvement in women’s swimming, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis offered formal recognition of second-place Emma Weyent as last week’s winner. In the governor’s proclamation, DeSantis stated, “since she is a native Floridian from Sarasota, I, Ron DeSantis, Governor of the State of Florida, do hereby declare in Florida that Emma Weyant is the rightful winner of the 2022 NCAA Division I Women’s 500-yard Freestyle.” He further declared Florida’s rejection of the “NCAA’s efforts to destroy women’s sports.”