August 19, 2022

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Kentucky swimmer who tied with Lia Thomas says majority of women not okay with ‘trajectory’ of female sports

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FIRST ON FOX: Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, who tied with transgender swimmer Lia Thomas for fifth place in the 200-yard freestyle NCAA swimming championships, says the “majority” of females are “not okay with the trajectory” that female sports are taking.

Gaines’s remarks came during an interview on the “Unmuted with Marsha” podcast hosted by Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.

“The majority of us female athletes, or females in general, really, are not okay with this, and they’re not okay with the trajectory of this and how this is going and how it could end up in a few years,” Gaines said, referring to the NCAA’s unwillingness to change the rules in an effort to protect female competitive sports.

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University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas and Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines react after finishing tied for 5th in the 200 Freestyle finals at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on March 18,, 2022 at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta Georgia.

University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas and Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines react after finishing tied for 5th in the 200 Freestyle finals at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on March 18,, 2022 at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta Georgia.
(Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Gaines said she knows several women who feel the same way she does, but they’re “scared” to speak out against transgender females participating in women’s sports because of today’s culture, and “they don’t want to risk their future.”

The University of Kentucky swimmer, who told Blackburn she has been taking part in swimming competitions since the age of 10, outlined her emotions and afterthoughts when she realized she had tied with Thomas and did not receive a trophy at the competition.

“I touched the wall and saw there was a five by my name indicating that I got fifth … I also looked up, and I saw the number five by Lia’s name and so, in that moment, I realized we tied,” Gaines told Blackburn. “It was kind of like a flood of emotions. I was extremely happy for the girls above me who conquered what was seemingly impossible by beating Lia.”

“I was shocked, really,” Gaines added.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., interviews Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines. 

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., interviews Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines. 
(Unmuted with Marsha/YouTube)

Gaines walked away from the competition that day without a trophy for her placement, but Thomas did not.

“I walked back [to get my trophy] and the NCAA official came up to me, and he said, ‘Hey, that was a great swim. We only have one fifth place trophy,’ which I understood, I get how that works. But he said, ‘We’re gonna have to give the trophy to Lia. Yours will be coming in the mail. Great job.'”

“I was kind of taken aback, and I don’t think he necessarily expected me to really question it,” Gaines said.

The Kentucky swimmer told Blackburn that the official explained to her that the trophies were given out in chronological order, but Gaines said she was left confused seeing as how she tied with Thomas.

University of Pennsylvania transgender athlete Lia Thomas

University of Pennsylvania transgender athlete Lia Thomas
(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

“I don’t think they handled this properly, but I don’t think they were prepared, you know, to handle this kind of situation, and so they were faced with something they were unsure what to do with,” Gaines said.

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“I looked at him and I said, ‘This is the women’s 200-yard freestyle, and Lia won a national title last night, and I have worked every day for the past four years for this,'” Gaines recalled, discussing how significant it is for her and those she is competing against to make it to that point.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize, but only the top 1% of, you know, female college athletes make it to this meet. That, in and of itself, is a huge deal, but you have to fight for every point there, and I was kind of just frustrated with how it was handled and how they kind of addressed me.”