Lia Thomas was the center of attention when she won the women's 500-yard freestyle event in NCAA Division I event, in March 2022. But since 2021, her name has been brought up when there has been a public debate about transgender women in sports.
Yesterday, Herschel Walker, the Republican nominee for the 2022 United States Senate election in Georgia, released an advertisement featuring Riley Gaines. In the ad, we can see Gaines saying that she was forced to compete against a biological male in her senior year.
Despite not mentioning any names, it seems Riley is calling Lia Thomas a biological male. The ad has been attached below from Natalie Allison's Twitter account,
In the ad, Riley Gaines' exact words were:
"For more than a decade, I worked so hard. 4 AM practices to be the best. But my senior year, I was forced to compete against a biological male."
"A man won the swimming title that belongs to a woman."
Riley stated that Raphael Warnock, Walker's opponent for the Senate seat, voted to allow the participation. She claimed that Walker stands up for the right thing.
Nadine Bridges, the executive director of the nonprofit organisation One Colorado, spoke to The Hill and said:
"Shame on Herschel Walker - and shame on every politician using LGBTQ lives as political props."
This isn't the first time Riley has complained about competing against Lia Thomas. She often spoke about this during Herschel Walker's campaign for the election.
The ad wasn't well received by sections of the public and, especially, the LGBTQ community.
Some of the public reactions to the advertisement
Several people tweeted about this ad and some of the responses are attached below
One of them attached a screenshot of the 200m freestyle final of the NCAA Women's Championship where Riley Gaines and Lia Thomas were tied for the fifth place.
Another Twitter user wrote:
"The swimmer she is referring too also had other races that she didn't even place in. Face it Riley, you just lost. You came in 5th place. Would you like a participation trophy?"
Another one tweeted:
"Lia Thomas competed within NCAA rules at the time".
"I guess Riley Gaines should swim faster next time".
"Lol so u won 12 times and lost now so you mad & made a commercial?"
Who is Lia Thomas?
Lia Catherine Thomas is an American swimmer and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. In 2018, she announced to her family that she was a transgender and during an interview with Sports Illustrated in 2022, she said:
"In a way, it was sort of a rebirth, for the first time in my life, feeling fully connected to my name and who I am and living who I am. I am Lia."
The American swimmer began swimming at the age of five. Thomas swam for the men's team at the University of Pennsylvania and in his freshman year, clocked a time of eight minutes and 57.55 seconds in the 1,000-yard freestyle. This was recorded as the sixth fastest national men's time.
He finished second in the men's 500, 1000, and 1,650-yard freestyle during his time on the men's team from 2018-2019. Thomas started transitioning in May 2019 using hormone replacement therapy and came out as a trans-woman during her junior year.
Thomas started swimming for the women's team in the 2021-2022 season and won the NCAA Division I national championship by winning the women's 500-yard freestyle event. She finished ahead of Olympic silver medalist Emma Weyant.
Though Lia Thomas has followed all the gender-related policies that are required to be eligible to compete as a woman in NCAA swimming, she has often been criticized by some of her competitors.
But her dream of competing as a woman in the 2024 Paris Olympics has been shut down by the policies of the International Swimming Federation (FINA).