Riley Gaines: “I Left There With No Trophy” After Tie With Lia Thomas
University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines continues to speak out about the effects of transgender participation in collegiate sports, specifically Lia Thomas’ appearance at the recent NCAA Championships. Here is what she said previously about the issue.
In the 200 freestyle final at the NCAA Women’s Championships last month, Kentucky senior Riley Gaines finished tied for fifth with Penn’s Lia Thomas, the transgender swimmer who was the center of attention at the meet because she was allowed to compete against cisgender females under NCAA rules. Thomas was the NCAA champion in the 500 free, and she was favored to win the 200 free as well, but she finished almost a second-and-a-half off her best time and more than two seconds behind race winner Taylor Ruck.
After that race, Thomas and Gaines shared the fifth-place podium, but Gaines said that Thomas was given the only fifth-place trophy for the event. Gaines told The Daily Wire that an NCAA representative told her, “Hey, I just want to let you know, we only have one fifth place trophy, so yours will be coming in the mail. We went ahead and gave the fifth place trophy to Lia, but you can pose on the podium with the sixth place trophy.”
Gaines said that she argued with the official about why Thomas would get the trophy instead of her. Even though the two swimmers tied, Thomas is listed ahead of Gaines on the official results page, which indicates that Thomas touched ahead of Gaines by less than one hundredth (too small a margin to be absolutely certain).
“It was a bit disheartening,” Gaines said, according to The Daily Wire. “It really was. I left the pool with no trophy. Not a big deal, but it was the goal that I had set all year.”
Gaines added that she became upset that it appeared the NCAA was prioritizing the transgender athlete over others. “It’s almost like they’re trying to back (transgender athletes) more than…90 to 95 % of the rest of the swimmers who are kind of bummed by and affected by the rules that were in place for Lia to swim,” she said.
Even though she was upset by the situation, Gaines made clear that she was not upset with Thomas personally. “I am in full support of her and full support of her transition and her swimming career and everything like that because there’s no doubt that she works hard too, but she’s just abiding by the rules that the NCAA put in place, and that’s the issue,” Gaines said.