Lia Thomas made headlines this year as she won the 500-yard freestyle event at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I national championship. With the win, Thomas became the first openly transgender athlete to achieve the feat.
The 22-year-old athlete stunned the sporting world as she bagged several titles at the Ivy League women's swimming and diving championships.
The swimmer has been in the spotlight ever since she came out as a transgender athlete. While Lia Thomas’ impressive achievements have been lauded by many, the same has led to controversial discussions over transgender women’s roles in sports. Many critics, competitors and some of her own teammates, have stated that Thomas shouldn’t be allowed to compete against other women.
However, the swimmer has stated that she will continue to participate in the competitions.
Thomas has once again been put back under the spotlight as former US president Donald Trump misgendered the transgender athlete.
Speaking at a rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on Friday (August 5), Trump mentioned Lia Thomas while stating that he would ban transgender women from women’s sports. He said:
“We will keep men out of women’s sports.”
The former US president subtly hinted at Lia Thomas as an example. Thomas, a University of Pennsylvania swimmer, transitioned and won first place in the NCAA Division I swimming championship.
Addressing the crowd during the rally, Trump spoke about an anonymous female swimmer who lost a shot at a record as she was competing against a transgender athlete at the event.
Referring to Thomas' 'NCAA Woman of the Year' nomination, Trump went on to misgender the athlete multiple times during his speech.
He told the crowd present at the rally:
“And he was just given the Female Athlete of the Year by the way, did you know that? Is our country going to hell or what?”
This is not the first time the athlete has been on the receiving end of criticism from the conservatives. Many in the past have used Thomas to claim that she had an unfair advantage in the sport.
Furthermore, the former president also criticized the teachers for imparting knowledge on gender and sexuality to students without the parents' consent. He said:
“No teacher should ever be allowed to teach transgender to our children without parental consent."
“What they’re doing to your children essentially behind your back is crazy.”
Last month, speaking at the first annual summit of the America First Policy Institute, Trump mocked Thomas' height, saying she had a "wingspan of 30 feet."
Lia Thomas’ journey so far
Originally from Austin, TX, Lia Thomas attended the University of Pennsylvania. She joined the Penn women’s swimming team in her senior year. Prior to this, Thomas competed for three seasons on the men’s team.
Thomas began to turn heads as she went from being ranked 65th on the men’s team to number one on the women’s team in the 500-yard freestyle. This was after she came out as transgender in 2019. Thomas continued to be on the receiving end of a negative reception for competing at the women’s events.
Earlier this year, Thomas revealed that she is planning on competing at the 2024 Summer Olympics trials. Later, US Swimming officials told news outlets that she would represent the US contingent at the Paris Olympics if she meets the criteria to continue swimming in the women’s category.
However, Thomas continues to be on the receiving end of harsh criticism from protestors who demand her ban from women’s sports.