How Emma Weyant, Other Swimmers Reacted to Lia Thomas Win

Amid protests and debate about whether she should be allowed to compete at all, transgender swimmer Lia Thomas' fellow competitors in the NCAA championship appeared willing to accept her as the winner in the 500-yard freestyle on Thursday.

Thomas, the University of Pennsylvania athlete who entered the NCAA championships as the top seed amid a record breaking season, became the first transgender NCAA champion in Division I history after winning with a time of 4:33.24.

Her appearance at the championship in Atlanta was met with protests from conservative groups and fellow athletes at the Georgia Tech complex and arrived following divisive discussions about whether she or other transgender athletes should be able to take part in competitive sports.

There were even some boos from the crowd after Thomas was proclaimed the winner on the podium and after she gave an interview to ESPN following her victory.

"I try to ignore it as much as I can," Thomas said when asked about the distractions regarding her appearance at the championships. "I try to focus on my swimming, what I need to do to get ready for my races. And just try to block out everything else."

Similar hostility did not appear to have been shown from other competitors.

In the immediate aftermath of the race, both second placed Emma Weyant, who won silver in the 400-meter Individual Medley at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, and third placed Erica Sullivan, a silver medalist in the 1,500-meter freestyle event in Tokyo, shook hands with Thomas in the water.

While standing on the podium, all the competitors in the 500-yard freestyle race applauded Thomas when she was announced the winner, except for fifth placed Evie Pfiefer, who appeared to not clap, according to a video from the arena.

Elsewhere, a Getty photo shows Weyant, Sullivan and fourth place finisher Brooke Forde posing while standing away from Thomas. It is unclear whether this was an intended statement from the other swimmers rather than a standard picture where the winner is shot separately.

Following the race, a number of right-wing figures and groups dismissed Thomas' victory and declared Weyant the actual winner of the race.

Angela Morabito, a former press secretary for the Department of Education for the Trump administration, tweeted: "Round of applause for Emma Weyant, the UVA swimmer who placed second in the 500y freestyle tonight, behind Lia Thomas. Second is the new first. #savewomenssports."

Clay Travis, political commentator and founder of sports media company OutKick, added: "Congrats to Virginia freshman Emma Weyant, the woman who would have won tonight's NCAA title in the 500 meter if women's sports were still sane."

OutKick also ran an article about the NCAA race with the headline "Virginia Freshman Emma Weyant Cheated Out Of A National Championship By Lia Thomas."

Speaking to ESPN, Schuyler Bailar, who became the first known transgender man to compete on a Division I men's team while racing with Harvard, praised Thomas for still competing despite the furor which followers her.

"It's a symbol of Lia's resilience," Bailar said. "The fact that she's able to show up here, despite protesters outside, people shouting and booing her, I think it's a testament to her resiliency.

"And it's also a symbol that we can both be who we are and do what we love."

The University of Pennsylvania has been contacted for comment.

lia thomas swimmer
Transgender woman Lia Thomas (L) of the University of Pennsylvania stands on the podium after winning the 500-yard freestyle as other medallists (L-R) Emma Weyant, Erica Sullivan and Brooke Forde pose for a photo at the NCAA Division I Women's Swimming & Diving Championship on March 17, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. It is unclear whether this was an intended statement from the other swimmers rather than a standard picture where the winner is shot separately. Getty Images