Protesters rally as Lia Thomas becomes first trans woman to win NCAA swimming title

The event was held at Georgia Tech in Atlanta
Published: Mar. 17, 2022 at 7:27 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - Protesters for and against Lia Thomas rallied outside the McAuley Aquatic Center Thursday during the NCAA Swimming Championships.

Thomas won the 500-yard Freestyle to become the first known transgender woman to win a Division 1 swimming championship.

The fifth-year senior at the University of Pennsylvania finished with a time of 4 minutes, 33 seconds – a second ahead of runner-up, Emma Weyant of the University of Virginia.

Thomas declined to speak during her post-race press conference, a requirement of winners as explained by league officials after the race.

RELATED STORY: Controversy over transgender swimmer ahead of Championships at Georgia Tech

Mike Flynn, who handles communication for the championship, said neither Thomas nor her coaches provided a reason for her declining to speak.

It’s unclear if Thomas will face a punishment for not addressing the media.

Greg Johnson, an official with the NCAA, told reporters that the NCAA will undergo a standard review process of Thomas’ race after the championships wrap up.

Before and during Thomas’ race, protesters rallied around her presence in the event final.

“I think that trans women are women and trans men are men,” said Lydia Kenney, a third-year student at Georgia Tech. “So they should be able to compete with other women and other men, and then the best woman should win.”

RELATED STORY: Penn’s Thomas becomes first transgender woman to win NCAA swimming championship

Roughly thirty protesters, mostly Georgia Tech students, rallied in support of Thomas outside the aquatic center.

Across the street, roughly fifty protesters rallied against Thomas, stressing that she had an unfair advantage.

“If Lia Thomas wins tonight, it is the erasure of women,” said Beth Stelzer, founder of Save Women’s Sports. “There will be no asterisk on the leaderboard to show future generations that that record is not attainable because it was set by a male body.”

Stelzer and other protesters against Thomas’ participation handed out black pom-poms to some spectators walking in the arena.

Thomas is expected to swim in two more events as part of the NCAA Swimming Championships.