(Reuters) – The University of Pennsylvania has nominated transgender swimmer Lia Thomas for the 2022 NCAA Woman of the Year award, the American college sports regulating body said.
Thomas shot to fame earlier this year when she became the first transgender NCAA champion in Division I history after winning the women’s 500-yard freestyle in March and she had hoped to compete for a place at the Olympics.
But soon after, she became the focus of a raging debate when swimming’s world governing body FINA voted last month to restrict the participation of transgender athletes in elite women’s competitions.
Thomas competed on Pennsylvania’s men’s team for three years before transitioning and moving to the women’s team, setting multiple programme records.
Her eligibility had come under considerable scrutiny, including from several Pennsylvania team mates.
The NCAA said member schools nominated a total of 577 graduating student-athletes. Each school can recognise up to two female athletes and Thomas had been nominated for swimming and diving in Division I.
The Woman of the Year selection committee will select 10 student-athletes from each of the three NCAA divisions. Of the top 30, the committee will then announce nine finalists — three from each division.
The winner will be named at the NCAA Convention in January in San Antonio.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; editing by Pritha Sarkar)