2022 NCAA Women’s Championships Day 2 Finals: Lia Thomas Wins 500 Freestyle ‘It Means the World’

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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The 2022 NCAA Women’s Division I Swimming and Diving Championships

Penn swimmer Lia Thomas became the first known transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I championship on Thursday.

Thomas won the 500-yard freestyle at the 2022 NCAA Women’s Division I Swimming and Diving Championships in Atlanta.

It was a close race throughout with Erica Sullivan, Emma Weyant and Brooke Forde all making moves. But Thomas pulled away and on in 4:33.24.

Weyant was second in 4:34.99, followed by Sullivan (4:35.92) and Forde (4:36.18).

Thomas is a transgender swimmer that has been the subject of debate in the swimming world and beyond this year, especially leading up to the championships. While Thomas has followed all NCAA rules, many believe the rules are not adequate, giving transgender athletes an unfair advantage.

“I tried to focus on my swimming and block out everything else. It means the world to be here and be able to compete,” Thomas said in the post-race interview on deck.

Thomas declined to participate in the required press conference for winners of the meet. An NCAA spokesperson said that the situation would be reviewed after the championships.

Some chanting started during her post-race interview on the pool deck. Weyant received a thunderous cheer on the podium as runner-up, and again Thomas got a scattering of cheers.

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

When they announced Thomas before the race, the pool deck was again eerily quiet with a few cheers scattered around the natatorium.

The NCAA, meet, American and U.S. Open record for the event is 4:24.06 set by Stanford’s Katie Ledecky in 2017. The pool record is 4:30.81 set by Virginia’s Leah Smith in 2016.

Thomas swam in the prelims of the 500-yard freestyle on Thursday morning and took the first seed in 4:33.82.

It was a loaded field that included Olympians Erica Sullivan and Brooke Forde.

Complete meet coverage

Live Results

Event 3  Women 500 Yard Freestyle
=========================================================================
         NCAA: N 4:24.06  3/16/2017 Katie Ledecky, Stanford
         Meet: M 4:24.06  3/16/2017 Katie Ledecky, Stanford
     American: A 4:24.06  3/16/2017 Katie Ledecky, Stanford
      US Open: O 4:24.06  3/16/2017 Katie Ledecky, Stanford
         Pool: P 4:30.81  3/17/2016 Leah Smith, Virginia
    Name                 Year School            Prelims     Finals Points 
=========================================================================
                       === Championship Final ===                        
 
  1 Thomas, Lia            5Y Penn              4:33.82    4:33.24   20  
    r:+0.76  25.25        52.80 (27.55)
        1:20.59 (27.79)     1:48.43 (27.84)
        2:16.24 (27.81)     2:44.12 (27.88)
        3:11.80 (27.68)     3:39.29 (27.49)
        4:06.74 (27.45)     4:33.24 (26.50)
  2 Weyant, Emma           FR Virginia          4:37.25    4:34.99   17  
    r:+0.73  25.59        53.04 (27.45)
        1:20.91 (27.87)     1:48.66 (27.75)
        2:16.33 (27.67)     2:44.17 (27.84)
        3:11.98 (27.81)     3:39.90 (27.92)
        4:07.73 (27.83)     4:34.99 (27.26)
  3 Sullivan, Erica        FR Texas             4:36.79    4:35.92   16  
    r:+0.66  25.34        52.62 (27.28)
        1:20.30 (27.68)     1:48.25 (27.95)
        2:16.22 (27.97)     2:44.41 (28.19)
        3:12.74 (28.33)     3:40.98 (28.24)
        4:08.96 (27.98)     4:35.92 (26.96)
  4 Forde, Brooke          5Y Stanford          4:38.19    4:36.18   15  
    r:+0.65  25.89        53.30 (27.41)
        1:21.09 (27.79)     1:48.85 (27.76)
        2:16.71 (27.86)     2:44.59 (27.88)
        3:12.43 (27.84)     3:40.16 (27.73)
        4:08.35 (28.19)     4:36.18 (27.83)
  5 Pfeifer, Evie          5Y Texas             4:37.39    4:37.29   14  
    r:+0.78  25.85        53.27 (27.42)
        1:21.03 (27.76)     1:49.08 (28.05)
        2:17.27 (28.19)     2:45.23 (27.96)
        3:13.27 (28.04)     3:41.58 (28.31)
        4:09.87 (28.29)     4:37.29 (27.42)
  6 McKenna, Paige         FR Wisconsin         4:37.36    4:37.35   13  
    r:+0.73  25.47        52.97 (27.50)
        1:21.03 (28.06)     1:49.02 (27.99)
        2:17.09 (28.07)     2:45.09 (28.00)
        3:13.17 (28.08)     3:41.40 (28.23)
        4:09.65 (28.25)     4:37.35 (27.70)
  7 McMahon, Kensey        SR Alabama           4:38.76    4:40.06   12  
    r:+0.73  25.96        53.81 (27.85)
        1:21.43 (27.62)     1:49.54 (28.11)
        2:17.97 (28.43)     2:46.43 (28.46)
        3:15.11 (28.68)     3:43.92 (28.81)
        4:12.58 (28.66)     4:40.06 (27.48)
  8 Tankersley, Morgan     SR Stanford          4:38.65    4:40.08   11  
    r:+0.70  26.03        53.96 (27.93)
        1:22.08 (28.12)     1:50.49 (28.41)
        2:18.81 (28.32)     2:47.05 (28.24)
        3:15.09 (28.04)     3:43.21 (28.12)
        4:11.84 (28.63)     4:40.08 (28.24)
27 Comments
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Billy
5 months ago

What a travesty, letting a man swim against the women. It’s not fair and not right, what’s happening to women’s sports?

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NC Swim Family
5 months ago

Congratulations to Emma on winning the Women’s 500 free!

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Mom
5 months ago
Reply to  NC Swim Family

Someday, I hope her win will be recognized formally. It needs to be.

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Father
5 months ago
Reply to  NC Swim Family

Yes, Congrats to Emma – NCAA Women’s 500FR Champion! Can someone please tell Liam that the men’s championship is next week? He’s a week off!

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Frank
4 months ago
Reply to  NC Swim Family

Ron DeSantis made a formal proclamation that Emma is the best woman in the 500m freestyle! Way to go Ron! Absolutely disgusting that a man was allowed to compete in this race. I wish all women in all women’s sports that are effected by this lunacy would walk out until all the week men were gone!

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Veritas
5 months ago

If only women had raced, Tyler Mathieu places 8th in prelims, swims in finals and places 6th if she swam the same time she swam in consolation finals. Instead, she places 11th, and Florida has 7 more points than it does with Lia Thomas swimming the 500.

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Veritas
5 months ago
Reply to  Veritas

Sorry, Florida has 7 less points than it should have because Lia Thomas swam the 500. This is the most dramatic example, but Virginia has three points less than it should and so on.

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masm
5 months ago

they can’t have it all.

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Rebecca Rutt Leas
5 months ago

It is a sad day when the NCAA allows men to swim against women. This is not a statement against trans people but reasonable parameters must be expected to insure fairness. The NCAA testosterone standard is a joke. In this case, a fully mature gifted man who swam at elite level 3 years at Penn suddenly swims as a woman? Helen Keller can see this a mile away. Disingenuous and disgusting to have our Women’s meet ruined by a guy who was only 462 or worse among men. Women must rise up!

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Disgusted
5 months ago

I agree this is so wrong he/she has an unfair advantage even if they are taking hormones. God help us all. This abomination needs to stop !!!!!!

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Aldestrawk
5 months ago

Fairness is paramount and if Thomas had gotten the NCAA record I would agree that she still have enough of a residual advantage to make competition unfair. But she was more than 9 seconds off that record and her winning time didn’t even place among the top ten NCAA women in the last dozen years. So, you’re claim of unfairness is exaggerated but that, in itself, isn’t a statement against transgender individuals. You’re intentional misgendering is though.and reflects an unfair bias which you apparently can’t see because you have determined a priori that a natal male cannot have the psychology of a female, and that HRT has little effect. What is it specifically about a minimum 1 year of androgen blockers that make it a joke? I only see your bias being expressed.

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John
5 months ago
Reply to  Aldestrawk

I only see your inability to differentiate between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ being expressed.

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Trying to find middle ground
5 months ago
Reply to  Aldestrawk

Have you watched much swimming in your life? I’ve watched countless hours of practice and competition. Specifically distance freestyle. Lia was coasting the entire race and pushed the last 50. Her performance was calculated and restrained. Just fast enough to win. I am not upset with Lia. I don’t hate or blame Lia. I am not afraid of Lia or transgendered people. I care for Lia as a human. It isn’t easy for any of us to find out way in life. She needs immediate and continuous counseling. This is the apex of any athlete’s career and it won’t be fulfilling, because she knows she sandbagged it, didn’t give it her all and everyone knows it. Her life hasn’t been easy and will only get more mentally challenging from here. I am truly concerned for Lia’s wellbeing. The Penn staff, Skylar, the NCAA are culpable for enabling this to go this far. There is a place for all athletes and they should be included, just not like this.

As an aside – my daughter told Lia “Good job” after prelims and said she saw Lia’s eyes light up – I think Lia desperately wants to be accepted and she should be, again – this just isn’t doing the right thing.

Transphobia is wrong and having post-pubescent males compete against females is wrong. We all need to do better and talk and find middle ground.

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Axaul
5 months ago
Reply to  Aldestrawk

But Thomas has set records in the past for all collegiate women’s swimmers. And wasn’t even in the top 400 for men? This is a misogynist travesty

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Pete Thompson
4 months ago
Reply to  Aldestrawk

That’s only because the 462nd ranked male swimmer still can’t take the NCAA record. Just cheat to take first this year.

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Mom
5 months ago

Congratulations to Emma Weyant!

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Jack
5 months ago

Such a disgraceful time. So much for “women’s” sports.

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John O'Neil
5 months ago

Pure BS….it’s just not right!!

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J Lo
5 months ago

NO ONE AGREES WITH THIS!!! #savewomenssports What have all of our brave mothers and grandmothers fought for??? WAKE UP AMERICA!!!!!!!

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Heather LoMonaco
5 months ago

Shame on your disgusting organization! This is ridiculous ! Women are women and should not compete against men! If they want to look like a woman, that’s their right but if your born a man then you compete against men!

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Georgia Rambler
5 months ago

Unfortunate that this controversy should take away from some stellar performances. Not sure what Lia Thomas’ motivation is, surely no one would go through all this for a medal. I think tho, everyone is looking at this from the wrong angle. As a sports historian, mother of 7, pretty fair athlete all my 85 years, I’ve done a little research on this topic.
If I believed I was really a man, and lived my life as a man, which many women have done through the centuries, would I be able to compete successfully at a championship meet with males in running or swimming?
The answer is, of course no. Even Katie Ledecky says with a smile, that she is “middle tier” swimming with the guys at Florida.
Why not? Because I still would be biologically a female with different physiological characteritics. Thus, Lia, despite hormone therapy, is still biologically a male. And, tho it doesn’t seem likely, she could reverse the process. If the trans process is truly possible, it should work both ways but it doesn’t.
Is the current rule wrong? It would seem so.

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teresa huggins
5 months ago

THIS IS NO RECORD OF STANDING! If a woman were to take testosterone for strength enhancing in sports, she would be kicked out. Yet, these woman have to swim against a man filled with testosterone. hmmm… say what you want, my point is, how dare the NCAA allow this crap.

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mary
5 months ago

And this is how you ruin women’s (by birth) sports careers 🙁 if should be 4 divisions, women, men, trans men, trans women, done.

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mary
5 months ago

“Save women’s sports!” (kids, and teenagers)
(not against trans people by the way)

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Robert Kessler
5 months ago

transgender should be a separate catergy!

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Msmith
4 months ago

What a joke. Emma Weyant is the REAL Winner!!!!!

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Gary
4 months ago

Very sad day for all women sports!!!!