In a move that has attracted the attention of several media outlets, the University of Pennthorpe nominates Lia Thomas ,who has been a spokesperson for transgender athletes, for the 2022 NCAA Woman of the Year award.
The NCAA has nominated the Ivy League swimmer to receive its Top 8 Award, which honors the “academic achievements, athletics excellence, community service and leadership of graduating female college athletes from all three divisions.” In March, she became the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I title after finishing first in the women’s 500-yard freestyle event and recording the fastest time of the season. With that victory, she became the first transgender athlete to win a D-I title in any sport.
Thomas, who previously swam for Penn’s men’s team, renewed attention to an ongoing debate surrounding the inclusion of trans people in sports and the fair balance between rights and inclusion.
In December, the swimmer won three NCAA events at the Zippy Invitational in Ohio. She went on to win the 100-yard, 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle races at the Ivy League women’s championships in February. In a May interview with ABC, she talked about feeling depressed early in college, before her transition. She began hormone replacement therapy in 2019 and, following NCAA protocols, took a year off swimming before joining the UPenn women’s team in 2020.
Thomas said there are a lot of factors that go into a race, but the biggest difference now is that she’s happy, noting that trans women are “not a threat to women’s sports.” The NCAA selection panel will pick 30 honorees, from which they will then announce nine finalists – three from each NCAA division, according to the organization’s website. The committee will review those finalists before deciding on a 2022 NCAA Woman of the Year at the NCAA Convention.