Reka Gyorgy Virginia Tech swimmer blames Lia Thomas transgender swimmer for stealing her NCAA finals spot as furore over UPenn swimmer’s inclusion in female sports continues.
And the furore continues… A former Olympian and university student who missed out on competing in the 500-yard women’s NCAA championships freestyle finals last week claims her spot was ‘taken away’ by transgender swimmer Lia Thomas.
Virginia Tech swimmer Reka Gyorgy, 25, finished 17th in the preliminary heats of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships in Atlanta last Thursday, meaning she missed out on the following day’s semi-finals by one place.
Thomas, 22, went on to win the event, making history as the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA top-tier title in the winning time of 4:33.24, more than a second-and-a-half faster than Virginia’s Emma Weyant, who finished at 4:34.99.
Lia Thomas, the University of Pennsylvania swimmer had been causing ongoing controversy in recent weeks after breaking a number of college records and last week becoming the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA top tier title with victory in the 500-yard freestyle.
A feat that many were proud of. A feat that many also criticized for ‘robbing’ them of their rightful place in woman’s swimming berths.
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
NCAA- Lia Thomas places 1st in the NCAA women’s 500Y Freestyle swimming competition. Finished ahead by 3 seconds.
Thomas has now placed #1 on the leaders board and is set to compete in the finals tonight.
Final time: 4.33.82 pic.twitter.com/VWk7i5XjAw
— Sav (@RapidFire_Pod) March 17, 2022
Should transgender swimmers who identify as female be allowed to compete in female sports?
‘This is my last college meet ever and I feel frustrated,’ she said.
‘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. One spot was taken away from the girl who got ninth in the 500 free and didn’t make it back to the A final preventing her from being an All-American. Every event that transgender athletes competed in was one spot taken away from biological females throughout the meet.’
The 25-year-old, who competed in the 200-metre backstroke at the 2016 Rio Olympics, stressed that she respected and ‘fully stands with Lia Thomas’.
‘I am convinced that she is no different than me or any other D1 swimmer who has woken up at 5am her entire life for morning practice,’ she wrote.
‘She has sacrificed family vacations and holidays for a competition. She has pushed herself to the limit to be the best athlete she could be. She is doing what she is passionate about and deserves that right. On the other hand, I would like to critique the NCAA rules that allow her to compete against us, who are biologically women.’
Gyorgy said the focus of the meet had been on ‘reporters, media and division in our sport’ rather than achievements such as ‘two women going under 21 seconds in the 50 freestyle, three women going under 50 seconds in the 100 butterfly and the first woman in history to go under 48 seconds in the 100 backstroke’.
Virginia Tech swimmer competing in this year’s NCAA championship details how her teammate was brought to tears after her place in the finals was taken by Lia Thomas: pic.twitter.com/mow56mVp1W
— Sav (@RapidFire_Pod) March 17, 2022
Male biological advantages?
‘Thursday was not a specific athlete’s fault,’ she said. ‘It is the result of the NCAA and their lack of interest in protecting athletes.’
Another Virginia Tech swimmer referenced Gyorgy in an interview last week, saying her teammate was ‘very emotional’ about being ‘just bumped out’ (see directly above).
‘We are all very disappointed and frustrated with someone who has capabilities more than us women have to be able to compete at this level and take opportunities away from other women,’ she told podcast host Savanah Hernandez.
‘It’s heartbreaking to see someone who went through puberty as a male and has the body of a male be able to absolutely blow away the competition, and you go away with the mindset that you don’t have a chance. It’s hard to compete against someone with the aerobic capacity, the muscle development, the body of a man.’
According to Braden Keith, the editor-in-chief of swimming website SwimSwam, parents in attendance clapped Thomas after her win.
‘Virginia parents showing class where so many have not today, applauding Lia Thomas on the podium,’ Keith tweeted.
‘I try to ignore it as much as I can..’
‘Until we can stop the hate and the vitriol and the transphobia, we can’t have real conversations. Real conversations and real solutions have to start with compassion.’
Thomas has dominated US women’s college swimming as a student athlete at the University of Pennsylvania, where only until a few years ago she had competed as a male.
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.
Thomas has been allowed to compete this season because she had been taking testosterone suppression treatment for more than a year (2.5 years at time of press). She was ruled eligible to compete at this year’s Ivy League championships as eligibility requirements are now left up to individual sports.
Speaking after her victory on Friday, Thomas said she had attempted to downplay the controversy surrounding her rise to dominance in college swimming this season.
‘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 Centre.
Thomas had advanced to the final after posting the quickest time in morning preliminaries.
She had less than stellar results in subsequent events, however.
Thomas finished fifth in Friday’s 200-yard freestyle final, an event where she had the top seeding and had been favoured to win, with a time of 1:43.40.
On Saturday night she finished last in the 100-yard freestyle final with a time of 48.18, despite entering the race with the fourth-fastest time.
It was the final race of her collegiate career.