UPenn nominates Lia Thomas for Woman of the Year award


University of Pennsylvania woman of the year
Lia Thomas (centre) Image: University of Pennsylvania Instagram

The University of Pennsylvania has nominated transgender swimmer Lia Thomas for the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) Woman of the Year award.

The award recognises ‘female student-athletes who have exhausted their eligibility and distinguished themselves in their community, in athletics, and in academics throughout their college careers’.

Earlier this year, Lia Thomas won the 500-yard freestyle at the 2022 NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships. She later graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and will no longer be eligible to swim in the collegiate competition. Meanwhile, the NCAA tightened eligibility requirements for transgender swimmers.

Thomas is one of 577 graduating female student-athletes nominated for the Woman of the Year award.

The swimmer said earlier this year that she now has her sights set on swimming trials for the Olympics.

“I knew there would be scrutiny against me if I competed as a woman, and I was prepared for that.

“I intend to keep swimming… It’s been a goal of mine to swim at Olympic trials for a very long time, and I would love to see that through.”

However, in June, swimming’s governing body, FINA, banned transgender women from elite women’s swimming.

Woman of the Year award nomination

The nomination of Lia Thomas for a Woman of the Year award seems certain to arouse further controversy on the issue of transgender athletes in female competition.

Former Olympic gold medal-winner Caitlyn Jenner has described Thomas swimming in the women’s division as “one of the worst things to happen to the trans community.”

Jenner might now want to explain how Thomas’ nomination differs from her accepting the 2015 Glamour Woman of the Year award.

But Jenner probably has a point. The nomination is sure to cause more animosity to less high-profile and protected transgender people struggling to simply survive.

Social media posts overwhelmingly and vehemently opposed the nomination.

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