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(Video Credit: ABC News)
University of Pennsylvania transgender swimmer Lia Thomas beat out University of Virginia swimmer and Olympic silver medalist Emma Weyant on Thursday night in the 500-yard freestyle and was roundly booed for it while Weyant was praised on social media as a heroine and called the “real winner.”
The contest took place in Atlanta, Georgia. Weyant is 20 and comes from Florida. She represented Team USA at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics where she snagged a silver medal in the 400-meter individual medley.
Thomas, 22, has been at the center of a political maelstrom over transgenders being allowed to compete in women’s sports with many contending it is unfair due to biology. Thomas became the first transgender athlete to win a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) swimming championship.
Even the award ceremony was awkward as Thomas took her gold medal and Weyant the silver. The crowd cheered Weyant and booed Thomas while they stood on the dais.
NCAA- As winners are announced crowd goes wild for 2nd place winner of the 500Y Freestyle.
Crowd goes quiet as Thomas is announced first place. pic.twitter.com/fh5sVvlVxc
— Sav (@RapidFire_Pod) March 17, 2022
Many of the winner’s detractors claim that going through male puberty has given her an unfair advantage over her rivals physically.
“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,” Thomas told ESPN. “It means the world to be here, to be with two of my best friend and teammates and be able to compete.”
“Round of applause for Emma Weyant, the UVA swimmer who placed second in the 500y freestyle tonight, behind Lia Thomas,” tweeted Angela Morabito, who was the press secretary for the Department of Education during the Trump administration.
“Second is the new first. #savewomenssports,” Mark Krikorian, the Executive Director, Center for Immigration Studies, tweeted.
"Second Is the New First" — the new motto of "women's" sports. https://t.co/hRIIKa066t
— Mark Krikorian (@MarkSKrikorian) March 18, 2022
The American Principles project also applauded Weyant, “This is Emma Weyant from the University of Virginia. She finished in second place to Lia Thomas in the women’s 500 Free at the NCAA national championships. But she’s the true winner to all of us.”
Talk radio host Clay Travis jumped in as well, writing, “Congrats to Virginia freshman Emma Weyant, the woman who would have won tonight’s NCAA title in the 500 meter if women’s sports were still sane.”
Evangelical pastor Erik Reed asserted on Twitter, “Here’s the name you should remember and lobby for: Emma Weyant. She’s at UVA. She finished second place, but would have been first place if people had the courage to speak up about the injustice of a MAN competing against women. Weyant’s time was a career best. #TheRealChamp.”
Here’s the name you should remember and lobby for: Emma Weyant. She’s at UVA. She finished second place, but would have been first place if people had the courage to speak up about the injustice of a MAN competing against women.
— Erik Reed (@ErikReed) March 18, 2022
In order to meet the rules for transgender athletes, Thomas has undergone the required hormone treatment. Regardless, she is said to retain an advantage over her opponents because she is actually male. The crowd did not embrace her win as being fair to Weyant.
— Emri Moore (@emrimooretv) March 17, 2022
— Virginia Swimming and Dive (@UVASwimDive) March 17, 2022
“It’s not necessarily an achievement in my mind,” one of Thomas’ teammates on UPenn’s Women’s Swim Team said, according to the Daily Mail. Under the condition of anonymity, she said that Thomas’ participation in D1-sanctioned women’s events has “completely ruined the integrity of the sport.”
“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,” she commented. “In reality, it makes no scientific sense to do so.”
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