DeSantis: Runner-up to Lia Thomas is real winner

Sports

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Olympic silver medalist Emma Weyant finished second to her transgender opponent, Lia Thomas, in the 500-yard freestyle event of the NCAA’s women’s swimming and diving championships Thursday.

Not in the eyes of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, however.

At a news conference Tuesday, Gov. DeSantis announced he would issue a proclamation making Weyant the winner of the 500-yard freestyle.

“She earned that,” he said. “We need to honor that appropriately.”

DeSantis’ proclamation has no effect on the tournament’s outcome. But he is using the document in fundraising messages for his reelection campaign, according to the Associated Press.

Lia Thomas made history as the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I championship.

Thomas beat Weyant by 1.75 seconds in the 500-yard freestyle event. It was Weyant’s fastest career time and the third-fastest time in UVA history, according to the university.

“The NCAA is basically taking efforts to destroy women’s athletics,” DeSantis said. “They’re trying to undermine the integrity of the competition. They’re crowning somebody else the women’s champion, and we think that’s wrong.”

This move didn’t come without criticism, however.

“People literally can’t afford their rent in Florida but this is what our governor uses his publicly paid position to do — attack trans people & continue to find ways to divide us,” Florida state Rep. Anna V. Eskamini said on Twitter.

Thomas has been at the center of controversy since her transition in 2019. She was on the University of Pennsylvania men’s swimming team prior to this season and has followed the NCAA rules since starting hormone replacement therapy.

Last year, DeSantis signed the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act into law. The controversial bill banned transgender athletes from participating in women’s sports. Athletes with a male designation on their birth certificate are not allowed to play in women’s sports from middle school all the way up to the college level, including intramural sports.

“We thought it was very important that girls and young women athletes in the state of Florida had the ability to work hard, to realize their dreams and to compete fairly,” DeSantis said on Tuesday. “Whether it’s in swimming, it’s in track and field, you name it.”

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