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Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines criticized the University of Pennsylvania’s decision to nominate Lia Thomas for the NCAA Woman of the Year honors on Friday.
Thomas, who is transgender, was the first trans woman to win Ivy League and NCAA championships.
But her skills in the pool sparked a hotly contested debate over whether transgender women should be allowed to compete against biological women in sports.
Gaines tweeted her opinion, saying the NCAA is making the top honor in collegiate athletics “worthless.”
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“As a real girl in this photo, and also a University of Kentucky nominee for NCAA WOTY, this is another slap in the face for women. First a female national title and now nominated for top honors in collegiate athletics,” she wrote in a tweet reply to Outkick founder Clay Travis. “The @NCAA has rendered this award worthless.
“This award combines sporting achievement with science, service and character. What character has Thomas displayed apart from sheer selfishness and pretension? The disrespect and disregard for the other female athletes in Thomas’ interviews is eye opening.”
Gaines was also nominated for NCAA Woman of the Year by the University of Kentucky after retiring from the pool. She won three individual conference titles in the SEC, broke two SEC records, received 12 All-America Awards, and graduated summa cum laude. At the NCAA championships earlier this year, she finished behind Thomas in the 200-yard freestyle.
LIA THOMAS NOMINATED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA FOR NCAA WOMAN OF THE YEAR AWARD
“This award not only recognizes athletic achievement, but also academics, service and character. So it’s extremely humbling to be seen as someone who embodies all of those things,” Gaines said in a press release on the school’s athletics website. “I know I was competing against a department full of amazing student athletes, so I’m very grateful and always proud to be a wildcat. I have so much love for Britain and Big Blue Nation.”
Each NCAA member school nominates a Woman of the Year. Each conference then reviews the nominations of its member schools and submits its conference nominee to the NCAA. Nominees participating in sports not sponsored by their school’s main conference and independent nominees are sent to a separate nomination pool and reviewed by a committee.
The organization then determines the top 30 and selects three finalists from each pool. From the nine finalists, the NCAA selects a winner.
Thomas’ nomination comes after FINA, the governing body for international swimming, voted to approve new guidelines for transgender swimmers.
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The newly approved “Gender Inclusion Policy” only allows swimmers who switched before the age of 12 to compete in women’s events.