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DeSantis names Emma Weyant 'rightful winner' of NCAA 500-yard freestyle over trans swimmer Lia Thomas

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Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday issued a proclamation declaring Sarasota native and Olympic silver medalist Emma Weyant the "real winner" of the 500-yard freestyle event at the Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships last Thursday.

Weyant, a freshman at the University of Virginia, finished second to Lia Thomas, a man who identifies as female and takes cross-sex hormones.

According to the university, Weyant finished the race with the third-fastest time in UVA history, as well as her own fastest career time. But Thomas beat her by 1.75 seconds, becoming the first transgender athlete to win a NCAA Division I title and the first man to do so in a women's event.

But Thomas' victory was controversial, as critics like DeSantis say men have biological advantages over women that makes direct athletic competition between the two sexes unfair.

"By allowing men to compete in women's sports, the NCAA is destroying opportunities for women, making a mockery of its championships, and perpetuating a fraud," DeSantis said Tuesday.

"In Florida, we reject these lies and recognize Sarasota's Emma Weyant as the best women's swimmer in the 500y freestyle."

At a press conference Tuesday, the Republican governor praised Weyant as a tough competitor and announced he would sign the proclamation declaring her the actual winner of the NCAA competition.

“If you look at what the NCAA has done by allowing basically men to compete in women’s athletics, in this case, the swimming, you had the number-one woman who finished was from Sarasota. And then Weyant, she won the silver medal, she’s been an absolute superstar her whole career,” DeSantis said. “She trains, I mean, to compete at that level is very, very difficult. And you don’t just roll out of bed and do it. That takes grit, that takes determination, and she’s been an absolute superstar and she had the fastest time of any woman in college athletics.”

He accused the NCAA of trying to "destroy women's athletics" by allowing gender-dysphoric men to compete against women.

“They’re trying to undermine the integrity of the competition, and they’re crowning somebody else the woman’s champion and we think that’s wrong ... we’re going to be doing a proclamation saying that Emma is the best female swimmer in the 500-meter freestyle, because she earned that," DeSantis said.

Continuing, DeSantis said organizations that permit men to compete against women because they identify as such are perpetuating "frauds" on the public and are "putting ideology ahead of opportunity for women athletes."

“And I think that there’s just some people that are afraid to speak out and say what they’re doing. But that is what they’re doing. And so in Florida, we’re going to be very clear, when they try to do things like that, when they try to undermine the integrity of competition, when they try to counteract the ability of women to realize their dreams, we are going to speak out about that," DeSantis concluded.

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