Ex-Virginia Tech swimmer says she felt 'cheated' after missing out on 500 finals in 2022 NCAA Championships

Ex-Virginia Tech swimmer says she felt 'cheated' after missing out on 500 finals in 2022 NCAA Championships

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Reka Gyorgy, a former Virginia Tech swimmer who is among the 16 current and former collegiate athletes suing the NCAA over its transgender policies, said Thursday she felt “cheated” out of making the 500 freestyle final at the 2022 championships because Lia Thomas had been allowed to compete.

Gyorgy missed the cut-off to get into the consolation final in the 500 free because she finished in 17th.

She said in an interview with The Free Press she felt like she was in the best shape of her life and was determined to make the final since it was going to be the last race of her collegiate career. She finished with a time of 4:41.06. Thomas, the transgender UPenn swimmer who eventually won a national championship in the event, finished the prelims with a 4:33.82 and a 4:33.24 in the final.

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Virginia Tech swimmer Reka Gyorgy swims the 400 IM consolation finals during the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on March 18th, 2022, at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta, Georgia. (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“I feel like I was cheated out from the final because I knew that Lia is going to be in front of me for sure,” Gyorgy explained to The Free Press. “And watching that last heat of the 500 freestyle, it was just so emotional and looking at the screen after the last heat touched the wall, and saw my name at 17th, I was shocked to be honest.

“I went through all the feelings. I was surrounded by my teammates and my coaches and I started crying. I broke down because I felt right away that I don’t have a second chance to swim again. It just wasn’t fair.”

Gyorgy expressed her frustration to the NCAA in a letter soon after the 2022 championships.

“With all due respect, I would like to address something that is a problem in our sport right now and hurting athletes, especially female swimmers,” the letter read. “Everyone has heard and known about transgender swimmer, Lia Thomas, and her case including all the issues and concerns that her situation brought into our sport. I’d like to point out that I respect 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 has sacrificed family vacations and holidays for a competition. She has pushed herself to the limit to be the best athlete she could be. She is doing what she is passionate about and deserves that right. On the other hand, I would like to critique the NCAA rules that allow her to compete against us, who are biologically women.

NCAA FACES LAWSUIT OVER TRANSGENDER POLICIES: ‘FIGHT FOR THE VERY ESSENCE OF WOMEN’S SPORTS’

Lia Thomas on the podium

Lia Thomas looks on from the podium after finishing fifth in the 200 Yard Freestyle during the 2022 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming & Diving Championship at the McAuley Aquatic Center on the campus of the Georgia Institute of Technology on March 18, 2022, in Atlanta, Georgia. (Mike Comer/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

“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.”

Gyorgy, a Hungarian who competed in the 200-meter backstroke at the 2016 Summer Olympics, explained that she felt as though the last spot to get into the consolation final had been taken from her.

“It feels like the final spot was taken from me because of the NCAA’s decision to let someone who is not a biological female compete,” she wrote. “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. 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.”

Gyorgy added the NCAA “knew what was coming this past week” and wrote that the media circus around the NCAA Championships this week put in the shadows the incredible performances of other competitors.

Reka Gyorgy swimming

Reka Gyorgy competes in the Women’s 400m IM during the Toyota U.S. Open Championships at the Greensboro Aquatic Center on November 13, 2020, in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

“It is the result of the NCAA and their lack of interest in protecting their athletes. I ask 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. Make the right changes for our sport and for a better future in swimming,” the letter concluded.”

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Now Gyorgy, along with fellow former NCAA swimmer Riley Gaines, is among those who are taking their battle to court in Georgia.

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