ESPN’s NCAA swimming analyst Rowdy Gaines knew there was nothing Virginia freshman Emma Weyant could do to catch Penn transgender swimmer Lia Thomas in the final 100 yards of Thursday night’s 500 freestyle at the NCAA Championships in Atlanta where the trajectory of fairness in women’s sports took a major step backward.
“That’s where [Lia Thomas] really took control of the race,” Gaines, who has been an Olympic swimming analyst since 1996, said during Thursday night’s ESPN coverage. “Emma Weyant did as much as she could to hang in there, and did a spectacular job in getting second,” Gaines added.
Rowdy isn’t lying. In the finals, Weyant swam a 500 free career-best 4:34.99. Thomas went 4:33.24.
Weyant, from Sarasota, isn’t just some random college swimmer. Last summer, she was a Team USA Swimming member who won a silver medal in the 400m individual medley as a 19-year-old.
Thursday night, she was cheated out of her first national championship by Thomas, a biological male.
Man wins Women's 500 free – @ESPN: "That's where she [Thomas-male] really took control of the race. Emma Weyant [UVA, Olympian] did as much as she could to hang in there, and did a spectacular job in getting second." #SaveWomensSports pic.twitter.com/gljyl3A1TK
— Emily Kreps (@ekreps) March 17, 2022
— Angela Morabito (@AngelaLMorabito) March 18, 2022
“It means the world to be here,” Thomas told ESPN’s Elizabeth Beisel in a quick victory interview on the Georgia Tech pool deck after the stunning and brave victory.
Then, as ESPN reported, Thomas refused to attend the NCAA-required post-race press conference where reporters would hopefully ask things like, “How does it feel to cheat Emma Weyant out of a national championship?”
At least give us a no comment, Lia.
Instead, Thomas got out of there fast and went back to the hotel or wherever a fraudulent NCAA champion goes with the winning trophy. For Thomas, there are more races to come. More trophies. Possibly more press conferences to skip.
What was going through Weyant’s head as she was trying to chase down Thomas? That’s something that would be interesting to get from the competitor. We do know that Thomas left her own Penn teammates in tears as they prepared to race the biological male all the while knowing they were about to be destroyed by Thomas.
“They feel so discouraged because no matter how much work they put in it, they’re going to lose. Usually, they can get behind the blocks and know they out-trained all their competitors and they’re going to win and give it all they’ve got,” a Penn swimmer told OutKick in December.
Weyant clearly gave it all she had Thursday night. ESPN’s Rowdy Gaines saw it. The swimming world saw it. And yet it was Thomas flat-out stealing the 500 freestyle national championship from a biological female because the spineless NCAA wouldn’t rewrite its rules to prevent something like what happened to Weyant.
More of it is expected Friday.
What a big moment in the history of women's sports. pic.twitter.com/Lenyj7I8aa
— Joe Kinsey (@JoeKinseyexp) March 17, 2022