Swimmer Lia Thomas grabbed the spotlight after winning the 500-yard freestyle event at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division One national championship. Thomas became the first transgender swimmer to win a major US college title. The University of Pennsylvania athlete’s title-winning performance at the Ivy League Women's Swimming and Diving Championships stunned the sporting world.
The 22-year-old athlete’s jump from men’s swimming events to women's has been a hot topic. The move also led to Thomas receiving some harsh criticism. Recently, a female University of Kentucky swimmer who competed against Thomas’s participation in women’s swimming, came forward to claim that several University of Pennsylvania swimmers were against their transgender teammate.
University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines came forward to claim that many of Lia Thomas’ Penn University teammates expressed their gratitude for speaking against the trans swimmer. She claimed that the athletes were happy with her advocacy for fairness in women’s sports.
Gaines, who is involved in Republican Senator Rand Paul’s reelection campaign, made a strong statement against the inclusion of trans athletes in women’s sports. The swimmer, busy with the political campaign, went on to claim that the Penn University swimmers were “threatened” and “blackmailed” for speaking against Lia Thomas.
Speaking during an appearance on Fox & Friends alongside Senator Rand Paul, Riley Gaines said:
“I actually had a ton of Lia Thomas’ teammates reach out to me personally and thank me for what I’m doing because this is something they deal with every single day… But of course, they’re intimidated, they’re threatened, they’re emotionally blackmailed.”
It is pertinent to note that Gaines competed against Thomas in the 200-yard freestyle at the NCAA’s women championship. She tied with the swimmer. The Kentucky athlete went on to accuse the Ivy League of putting female swimmers in “uncomfortable” positions by allowing a “man” in their private spaces.
“One of those examples being an email sent to the Ivy League swimmer saying that if you feel uncomfortable changing in an area where you will see male genitalia, here are some resources, and you should seek counseling.”
It is noteworthy that the statements were made by Gaines as part of Senator Paul’s reelection campaign. The Republican also spoke on the matter while claiming to raise awareness for the ongoing assaults against women’s sports. The politician also referred to Thomas as being a man and said that the speech against the swimmer “isn’t about hate” but about “fairness.”
Donald Trump misgenders Lia Thomas
This isn’t the first time Lia Thomas has been on the receiving end of criticism from Republicans. In August, Thomas was put under the spotlight after former US president Donald Trump mentioned her in his speech. Speaking at a rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Trump misgendered the transgender athlete and called her a man.
The former president stated that his side would ban transgender women. Trump said that he would “keep men out of women’s sports.” Addressing the crowd during the rally, Trump also referred to Thomas' 'NCAA Woman of the Year' nomination. The former President went on to misgender the athlete multiple times throughout his speech and even made inappropriate comments about teachers educating students on transgender people.