University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, speaking out about University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, a biological male, stated that when the college women competed against Thomas at the NCAA championships, they were not “forewarned” that Thomas would be sharing the locker room with them and undressing in front of them.
Gaines spoke with Tucker Carlson of Fox News, discussing the atmosphere at the championships as Thomas competed against the women.
“People just weren’t really talking about it. And so we get to NCAAs, it was at Georgia Tech, and so we get there, and the environment is nothing like I’ve ever seen before,” Gaines recalled. “It was so, like, almost edgy. Like people didn’t really know what to say, who to say what to, how to feel.”
“This was on day one,” she continued, “and then that night we watched Lia Thomas win a national title and blow all the other females completely out of the water. And that next day we came back and the mood had shifted to where people were mad.”
“The girls, you know, there were tears, these poor ninth and seventeenth place finishers who missed out on being named an All-American, there’s extreme discomfort in the locker room, there’s kind of these grumbles of —”
“Is he wandering around the women’s locker room?” Carlson interjected.
“Yeah. And that’s not something we were forewarned about, which I don’t think is right,” Gaines replied. “And any man’s changing in the locker room with someone who has different parts —”
“They just set a dude loose in your locker room and didn’t tell you,” Carlson persisted.
“Exactly,” Gaines answered. “And so I feel like to have that kind of forced upon us — so not only were we forced to race against a male, we were forced to change in the locker room with one. And so it’s just this feeling of like, ‘What is happening?’ Like, honestly, is this really happening? This is crazy.”
Gaines spoke with Mary Margaret Olohan of The Daily Wire at the time of the NCAA championships. After she had placed fifth in the women’s 200 freestyle, tied with Thomas, she was informed that she would not receive her trophy at the championships since Thomas would get it. Instead, she was forced to hold the sixth place trophy on the podium and was told she would get hers in the mail.
Gaines said an NCAA official told her, “I just want you to know that we respect you and admire your swim so much, but we just want Lia to hold the fifth place trophy.”
“It was a bit disheartening,” she said. “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. … The more I thought about it, the more it fired me up. It’s almost like the NCAA is trying to save face by giving Lia the fifth place trophy. … Who are we trying to protect here, and who are we trying to fight for here?”
Gaines spoke of watching Virginia Tech swimmer Reka Gyorgy, who placed 17th in the 500 free as Thomas finished in the top 16. Gyorgy thus did not qualify for the finals.
“When Lia touched the wall, and [Reka] realized that she got 17th, the first thing she said to me was, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I just got beat by someone who probably wasn’t even trying their hardest.’”
“It just broke my heart,” Gaines said. “She had tears in her eyes.”