Reka Gyorgy belonged in the finals of the 500-yard freestyle at last week’s NCAA Women’s Swimming Championships in Atlanta — but the NCAA refused to exercise the slightest bit of common sense when it came to male University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas.
Now, Gyorgy is blasting the collegiate sports organization for its lack of oversight.
In a letter posted on Instagram, Gyorgy — a native of Hungary who is a fifth-year senior at Virginia Tech and a 2016 Olympian — slammed “the NCAA rules that allow [Thomas] to compete against us, who are biologically women” and said she hoped “that the NCAA will open their eyes and change these rules in the future.”
WOW: Virginia Tech swimmer Reka Gyorgy says her finals spot was stolen from her by Lia Thomas because of “the @NCAA‘s decision to let someone who is not a biological female to compete.” pic.twitter.com/vrtEfqZ0LW
— Mary Margaret Olohan (@MaryMargOlohan) March 20, 2022
Gyorgy is one of the first active women’s NCAA swimmers to openly speak up against Thomas, despite reports that even his teammates are unimpressed with his dominance. Yet, these reports rarely make it into the mainstream media outlets, which pretend the only people actively speaking out against Thomas are wild-eyed, hidebound transphobes.
In the letter, Gyorgy — who noted she was “a 2016 Rio Olympian, represented Virginia Tech for the past 5 years, a 2 time ACC champion, 2 time All-American and 3 time honorable mention All-American” — wrote that the standards set for Thomas were unfair.
“With all due respect, I would like to address something that is a problem in our sport right now and hurting athletes, especially swimmers,” Gyorgy wrote. “Everyone has heard and known about transgender, Lia Thomas, and her case including all the issues and concerns that her situation brought into our sport.”
Gyorgy said she “respect[ed] and fully stand with Lia Thomas, I am convinced that she is no different than me or any other D1 swimmer who has woken up at 5am her entire life for morning practice.”
“She is doing what she is passionate about and deserves that right,” Gyorgy wrote. “On the other hand, I would like to critique the NCAA rules that allow her to compete against us, who are biologically women.”
“I’m writing this letter right now in hopes that the NCAA will open their eyes and change these rules in the future. It doesn’t promote our sport in a good way and I think it is disrespectful against the biologically female swimmers who are competing in the NCAA.”
In the 500-yard freestyle preliminaries at the NCAA Women’s Swimming Championships, Gyorgy placed 17th. That meant she didn’t move on to the finals and was, instead, the first alternate should another swimmer not be able to compete.
“I’m a 5th year senior, I have been top 16 and top 8 before and I know how much of a privilege it is to make finals at a meet this big,” she said.
“This is my last college meet ever and I feel frustrated. It feels like that final spot was taken away from me because of the NCAA’s decision to let someone who is not a biological female compete.”
According to results from Swimming World, Thomas led the preliminary rounds by posting a 4:33.82 time, almost 3 seconds ahead of the next competitor. In fact, the margin of victory between Thomas and second-place Erica Sullivan of the University of Texas was actually slightly wider than the margin between Sullivan and 11th-place Julia Mrozinski of the University of Tennessee.
(Thomas would eventually win the championship by over a second over the nearest competitor, according to The New York Times.)
“I know you could say I had the opportunity to swim faster and make the top 16, but this situation makes it a bit different and I can’t help but be angry or sad,” Gyorgy wrote.
“It hurts me, my team and other women in the pool. One spot was taken away from the girl who got 9th in the 500 free and didn’t make it back to the A final preventing her from being an All-American. Every event that transgender athletes competed in was one spot taken away from biological females throughout the meet.”
And, given Thomas’ past results, it wasn’t difficult to see the writing on the wall regarding what would happen at the championships.
“The NCAA knew what was coming this past week. They knew opinions and minds will be divided and chose to do nothing,” Gyorgy wrote.
“This week has been more about reporters, media and division in our sport than things like two women going under 21 seconds in the 50 freestyle, 3 women going under 50 seconds in the 100 butterfly and the first woman IN HISTORY to go under 48 seconds in the 100 backstroke,” she said.
“Thursday was not a specific athlete’s fault. It is the result of the NCAA and their lack of interest in protecting their athletes. I ask that the NCAA takes time to think about all the other biological women in swimming, try to think how they would feel if they would be in our shoes,” she said. “Make the right changes for our sport and for a better future in swimming.”