A former Olympian and Virginia Tech swimmer has slammed the decision to allow transgender athlete Lia Thomas to compete in women's competitions after insisting her spot in the finals of the NCAA championships were unfairly taken away.
Hungarian and Virginia Tech swimmer Reka Gyorgy - who went to the 2016 Rio Olympics in the women's 200m backstroke - said she felt "angry" and "sad" after the NCAA allowed Thomas to compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) top tier meet in Atlanta.
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The University of Pennsylvania swimmer has been in the headlines a lot recently after breaking a number of college records in the United States and last week became the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA top tier title with victory in the 500-yard freestyle.
In an angry open letter in which she referenced the event that Thomas won, Gyorgy claims her spot in the final was "taken away" from her by the transgender star.
WOW: Virginia Tech swimmer Reka Gyorgy says her finals spot was stolen from her by Lia Thomas because of "the @NCAA's decision to let someone who is not a biological female to compete." pic.twitter.com/vrtEfqZ0LW
— Mary Margaret Olohan (@MaryMargOlohan) March 20, 2022
“I swam the 500 free at NCAA’s on March 17, 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,” Reka Gyorgy wrote in a letter to the NCAA.
“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."
The swimmer doubled down on her letter with a Twitter post that read: "My finals spot was stolen by Lia Thomas, who is a biological male.
Until we all refuse to compete nothing will change. Thanks for all the support retweets and follows I wont stop fighting."
My finals spot was stolen by Lia Thomas, who is a biological male. Until we all refuse to compete nothing will change. Thanks for all the support retweets and follows I wont stop fighting.
— Reka🏊♀️ (@RekaGyorgy_) March 20, 2022
Gyorgy says she was just one of a number of young women whose dreams were dashed because of a ruling she insists is grossly unfair.
“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," she added.
"Every event that transgender athletes competed in was one spot taken away from biological females throughout the meet.
“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."
Thomas won the 500-yard freestyle after touching the wall in 4mins 33.24secs, more than one second-and-a-half clear of Virginia's Emma Weyant, who finished in 4:34.99.
Erica Sullivan, a silver medalist in the 1500m at the Tokyo Olympics last year, was third in 4:35.92.
Thomas has dominated US collegiate women's swimming recently as a student athlete at Penn, where just a few years ago she competed as a man.
Lia Thomas case sparks transgender debate
Since joining the women's team, Thomas has broken two school records and posted the fastest times in the country in the 200 and 500-yard freestyle events. Now she's an NCAA champion.
Her case has divided opinion, with some - including several teammates - arguing she has an unfair physiological advantage and should be barred from competing, while others say she should be allowed to compete freely as a woman.
Sixteen members of her 40-strong Penn team signed a letter arguing she had obtained an "unfair advantage."
However, more than 300 current and former swimmers signed an open letter calling for Thomas to be allowed to compete.
Before the latest meet in Atlanta, a small number of protesters gathered outside the venue to demonstrate against Thomas's participation, waving banners that read "Support Fair Sports for Women and Girls" and "Stand Up 4 Women."
Thomas said after her historic victory in the 500-yard freestyle that she simply had to block out the negativity and focus on her own performance.
Penn’s Lia Thomas won the 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA women’s swimming and diving championships.
Thomas becomes the first known transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I championship in any sport.
Full story from @katie_barnes3: https://t.co/mYzU5uBDpS pic.twitter.com/zgmIEgKO5x
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 17, 2022
"I try to ignore it as much as I can, I try to focus on my swimming, what I need to do to get ready for my races and try to block out everything else," Thomas said after the race at the McAuley Aquatic Center.
"I didn't have a whole lot of expectations for this meet. I was just happy to be here, trying to race and compete as best as I could.
"It means the world to be here, to be with two of my best friends and teammates and to be able to compete."
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