A Look At the Numbers and Times: No Denying the Advantages of Lia Thomas

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A Look At the Numbers and Times: No Denying the Advantages of Lia Thomas

As the controversy over transgender participation in women’s sports continues, including through newspaper discussion and television debate, here is a look at how Lia Thomas fared against biological women during her recent season at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Just how much of an advantage did Lia Thomas possesses over biological females? The numbers paint a clear picture. The fact that the University of Pennsylvania swimmer soared from a mid-500s ranking (554th in the 200 freestyle; all divisions) in men’s competition to one of the top-ranked swimmers in women’s competition tells the story of the unfairness which unfolded at the NCAA level.

In her final meet, Thomas finaled in three events at the NCAA Championships, highlighted by a victory in the 500 freestyle. She also finished fifth in the 200 freestyle and was eighth in the 100 freestyle. Although she didn’t contest the event at the NCAA Champs, Thomas had one of the country’s top times in the 1650 freestyle. Here’s a look at her performances throughout the season, including their comparative status to her times as a member of Penn’s men’s squad.

  • In the 500 freestyle, Thomas’ time of 4:33.24 from her NCAA-title swim handed her the fastest time in the nation by more than a second over Arizona State’s Emma Nordin (4:34.87). Additionally, Thomas’ difference from her personal best with the Penn men’s program was just 6%, as opposed to the typical 10% to 11% difference generally seen between men and women.
  • Thomas’ best time in the 200 freestyle ended up being her 1:41.93 mark from the Zippy Invitational in December. That effort ultimately ended up 3.76% slower than her best time before her transition. Again, that time was between 7% and 8% faster than the typical separation between men and women.
  • When Thomas won the 200 freestyle at the Ivy League Champs in 1:43.12, she was even with runnerup Samantha Shelton at the midway point, but crushed the Harvard swimmer over the last 100, highlighted by a 25.04 split for the last 50 yards. The closing split of Thomas was faster than the finishing laps of Missy Franklin in her American-record performance, and the best closing effort of the likes of Katie Ledecky, Mallory Comerford and Siobhan Haughey, among others.
  • In the 100 freestyle, Thomas’ best time prior to her transition was 47.15. At the NCAA Championships, she posted a prelims time in the event of 47.37. That time reflects minimal mitigation of her male-puberty advantage.
  • During the last season Thomas competed as a member of the Penn men’s team, which was 2018-19, she ranked 554th in the 200 freestyle, 65th in the 500 freestyle and 32nd in the 1650 freestyle. As her career at Penn wrapped, she moved to fifth, first and eighth in those respective events on the women’s deck.
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Season
4 months ago

“ tells the story of the unfairness ..”?!
What are you talking about, John? The only unfairness in this context is the huge unfair wealth advantage that Ivy League students, and Penn swimmers in particular, have. That gave them years of training and opportunity others can’t dream of. If the league mitigated that advantage, there would be a lot more BIPOC in the pool. But you ignore that presumably because it doesn’t fit the woke narrative.
Stop the segregation based on gender identity and bracket by ability and simply have enough brackets until everyone gets a trophy. Like little league. That way even the slowest swimmer can feel good. No need to segregate and create indirect brackets based on gender to create meaningful competition.
Segregation based on gender is a relic of segregation based on race and is wrong. My proposal allows men and women to compete equally based on performance and also provides an infinite number of brackets so that even the slowest swimmers can compete against others in a meaningful way.

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Melissa Rinaldi
4 months ago
Reply to  Season

Interested in your response but missing context. What is ‘your proposal’. Trust me, I get the social and economic inequality pillar when discussing a level playing field in sports

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Season
4 months ago

Hi Melissa, my proposal is to have brackets based on time and nothing else. Fastest, Next Fastest 1, Next Fastest 2, Next Fastest N where N is the largest number needed to include all the swimmers. For example “NCAA Fastest winner is J Doe”. No need for trans category or any other category other than Time category (where Time is the swimmer’s best time in race of interest). Time measure is basically an indicator of ability. Same structure can be used for other sports; use ability as sole way to bracket (not gender, not height, not color, etc).

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No
4 months ago
Reply to  Season

How convoluted and absurd. No, we will not destroy women’s sports and come up with a bizarre convoluted alternative system to ensure every mentally ill man in a frock and feel good about himself and get a medal for “beating” biological women in every bracket.

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Jo Woodman
4 months ago
Reply to  No

I think we should allow transgender athletes to participate in the gender they identify with but they double up with their ranking with a cis-gender person. If there are 12 people on a swim team and 50 people at a meet, we increase by one slot per trans athlete who wants to complete. That way we can track trans people as athletes in their own right, they can compete in their gender category, and not deny a gold to a cis woman. No cis-woman loses a scholarship due to a trans competitor, instead, we broaden sport to include trans people who want to operate in the gender they have transitioned into.

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Stuart
4 months ago
Reply to  Season

I take you have never participated in sports.

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Mel
4 months ago
Reply to  Season

A ridiculous proposal. No matter how many categories you have, males will always have an advantage over females. Just as adults will always have an advantage over children, and heavyweights will always have an advantage over lightweights. The comparison of sex segregation with racial discrimination is ludicrous. Sex segregation is to promote fairness, safety and equality for girls and women, including black women.

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Not drinking the Kool Aid
4 months ago
Reply to  Mel

Why do the people shoving males into women’s sports constantly compare black women to males? What the f???? How is that not racist? Black (white, Asian, and other) women are all female, men aren’t. The very comparison is insulting. How do they tell themselves that constantly comparing black women to men isn’t racist?

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A Prendergast
4 months ago

For someone who went through male puberty to be allowed to compete against swimmers who went through female puberty is simply a travesty. Humans cannot change sex. Biological sex is real and immutable. If men’s swimming had been impacted in the way that women’s swimming has, there would be an outcry. But it’s just women’s sport so nobody cares. Perhaps when ALL women’s swimming has been colonized by males we’ll start to wake up. I weep for my daughters.

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Whatever
4 months ago
Reply to  A Prendergast

They’ll need to change the way they film it for television, considering all the lengths they go to to film Thomas only from the waist up, to avoid showing the “original packaging” bulging through the women’s swimsuit. That’ll be harder to do when it’s every swimmer instead of just one person.

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Kit
4 months ago

Moving from a ranking of # 554 in the 200 yd freestyle (in men’s swimming) to #1 (in women’s swimming) suggests that the athletics world has not come up with a protocol that is fair for women’s athletics. Whatever measures are used to ensure that transgender female athletes don’t have an unfair advantage over athletes who were born female are flawed.

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Mel
4 months ago

A young female ice skater gets blasted by sports authorities and the media for accidentally consuming a banned substance. A blatant cheat gets lauded and praised just because he’s a man who calls himself ‘trans’. The magic word that let’s you get away with anything.

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Thank you John
4 months ago

Good on you, John, for publishing this article. As a former NCAA d1 swimmer, and a sibling who is currently a NCAA d1 swimmer, this is a load of crap- it makes me mad just seeing it. I feel bad for anyone who has to compete against this dude in a women’s tech suit- and it won’t end until more people with influence in the swimming community come out and say, unequivocally, that this is NOT fair and does untold harm to the efforts, achievements, and aspirations of women. I hope the women at NCAAs refuse to compete against “Lia”- make him realize he has no place doing what he’s doing!

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OceanSpirit
4 months ago

Season, stop trying to change the subject. This is about Lia being a man and cheating by swimming against women in order to win. Your attempt to distract is obvious and everyone is on to you.

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OceanSpirit
4 months ago

Season, how about biological men race against biological men. Biological women race against biological women. Transgenders race against Transgenders. Anything else is ABSURD.

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Drew
4 months ago

This man being allowed to compete as a “woman” because he calls himself one is a complete joke. Once again men (I am a real one) are limiting a woman’s ability to excel, only this time in sport. My 12 year old daughter will need to compete with these sickos. And how do you parents out there feel about your daughters changing with a naked man in the locker room, as this dude insists on doing. This is messed up and nothing can explain it. It’s wrong and must stop.

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Anonymous
4 months ago
Reply to  Drew

As a woman that dominates most men intellectually, I am bothered by those that want to be something they are not, chromosomes do not lie.

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Benjamin Brookland
4 months ago

Strange how the women aren’t happy with a man amongst them taking all the medals. How many female swimmers have campaigned for equality regarding male swimmers being allowed to wear the full suits that they wear? None! Lia Thomas will open the door to other men who claim they are women.

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Chip Boyle
4 months ago

And here’s Paul Harvey’s “…rest of the story…” The Penn male who is transitioning swam against a Yale female who is transitioning. So, irrespective of gender, a “female” swam against a “male” in the same race.

Create a third gender and and a third competition? As a parent of a former Northwestern U true female swimmer and a Yale true male swimmer, who sat in the sun on aluminum seats for years, I simply shake my head.