Olympic swimmer blasts transgender participation policy after Lia Thomas’ win

Lia Thomas became the first known transgender athlete to win a NCAA swimming title (USA Today Sports)

Hungarian swimmer Reka Gyorgy has hit out at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for allowing transgender athlete Lia Thomas to compete alongside other women.

Gyorgy, 25, missed out on a place in the 500m freestyle final at the NCAA Championships last week after finishing 17th in prelims – one place away from qualifying for the final.

Thomas, who began her transition in 2019 by starting hormone replacement therapy, made history on Thursday by becoming the first known transgender athlete to win an NCAA swimming championship with her victory in the 500m freestyle.

However, Thomas’ attendance at the event was met by protestors from Save Women’s Sports, with one holding up a sign in the stands which read: ‘Say no to males competing as females’.

Gyorgy, who represented Hungary at the Olympics in 2016, has accused the NCAA of being ‘disrespectful to biologically female swimmers’ over its decision to give Thomas the green light to compete.

In a statement on her personal Instagram page, Gyorgy wrote: ‘With all due respect, I would like to address something that is a problem in our sport right now and hurting athletes, especially female swimmers.

The NCAA has been accused of ‘disrespecting’ other athletes by allowing Lia Thomas to participate (USA TODAY Sports)

‘Everyone has heard and known about transgender, Lia Thomas, and her case including all the issues and concerns that her situation brought into our sport. I’d like to point out that I respect and fully stand with Lia Thomas; I am convinced that she is no different than me or any other D1 swimmer who has woken up at 5am her entire life for morning practice.

‘She has sacrificed family vacations and holidays for a competition. She has pushed herself to the limit to be the best athlete she could be. She is doing what she is passionate about and deserves that right.

‘On the other hand, I would like to critique the NCAA rules that allow her to compete against us, who are biologically women.

‘I’m writing this letter right now in hopes that the NCAA will open their eyes and change these rules in the future. It doesn’t promote our sport in a good way and I think it is disrespectful against the biologically female swimmers who are competing in the NCAA.

A protester held up a sign while transgender athlete Lia Thomas was competing (AP)

‘I swam the 500 free at NCAA’s on March 17th, 2022 where I got 17th which means I didn’t make it back to the finals and was first alternate. I’m a 5th year senior, I have been top 16 and top 8 before and I know how much of a privilege it is to make finals at a meet this big. This is my last college meet ever and I feel frustrated. It feels like that final spot was taken away from me because of the NCAA’s decision to let someone who is not a biological female compete.

‘I know you could say I had the opportunity to swim faster and make the top 16, but this situation makes it a bit different and I can’t help but be angry or sad. It hurts me, my team and other women in the pool. One spot was taken away from the girl who got 9th in the 500 free and didn’t make it back to the A final preventing her from being an All-American. Every event that transgender athletes competed in was one spot taken away from biological females throughout the meet.

Lia Thomas began her transition in 2019 by starting hormone replacement therapy (AP)

‘The NCAA knew what was coming this past week. They knew opinions and minds will be divided and chose to do nothing. This week has been more about reporters, media and division in our sport than things like two women going under 21 seconds in the 50 freestyle, 3 women going under 50 seconds in the 100 butterfly and the first woman IN HISTORY to go under 48 seconds in the 100 backstroke.

‘Thursday was not a specific athlete’s fault. It is the result of the NCAA and their lack of interest in protecting their athletes. I ask that the NCAA takes time to think about all the other biological women in swimming, try to think how they would feel if they would be in our shoes. Make the right changes for our sport and for a better future in swimming.’

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