Transgender Swimmer and NCAA Champion Lia Thomas Gives Exclusive, First On-Camera Interviews with ESPN and ABC News
- Katie Barnes’ ESPN Conversation Debuted on Tuesday’s ‘Outside the Lines on SportsCenter’
- Juju Chang’s Interview with Thomas Premiered on ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ and ‘Nightline’
Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, the 2022 NCAA 500 freestyle champion from the University of Pennsylvania, participated in an exclusive interview with ESPN and ABC News – her first televised conversation away from the pool since her controversial swimming season. Thomas spoke with both ESPN’s Katie Barnes and ABC News “Nightline” co-anchor Juju Chang to discuss her groundbreaking championship, the scrutiny that she has been under swimming with the women’s team, and what’s next for her swimming career.
Barnes’ and Chang’s interviews aired jointly on Tuesday, May 31 across the networks. On ESPN, Barnes’ “Outside The Lines” interview with Thomas aired in the “OTL on SC” segment during the Noon ET edition of SportsCenter. Chang’s interview premiered on “Good Morning America” and will air later this evening during “Nightline.”
In March, Thomas became the first known transgender athlete to win a Division I national championship in any sport. She qualified in three events at the 2022 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships, touching the wall first in the 500 freestyle, tying for fifth in the 200 freestyle and finishing eighth in the 100 freestyle.
While her performances in the pool were historic, dozens of people participated in protests and counter-protests outside the McAuley Center on the campus of Georgia Tech, either objecting to or supporting Thomas in her quest for an NCAA women’s title.
Prior to Tuesday’s exclusive, Thomas’ only other televised interview was a post-victory conversation with ESPN swimming commentator and three-time Olympian Elizabeth Beisel. In that interview, Thomas shared: “It means the world to be here. I try to ignore [the distractions] as much as I can. I try to focus on my swimming, what I need to do to get ready for my races, and just try to block out everything else.”
Katie Barnes (they/them) is an award-winning journalist covering the intersection of sports and gender. Their work has appeared across multiple ESPN platforms, including ESPN.com, “SportsCenter,” “Outside the Lines” and the “ESPN Daily” podcast. Barnes has profiled women’s sports superstars and rising stars alike, from Maya Moore to Paige Bueckers and Azzi Fudd to Amanda Nunes. In addition to athlete profiles, Barnes has extensively covered legislation and policy affecting transgender athletes. In 2019, they were an executive producer on the “30 for 30” short Mack Wrestles, which told the story of transgender wrestler Mack Beggs as he graduated high school and left home for college. Barnes is a three-time GLAAD nominee and their work has been recognized by Folio, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Curve Foundation. In 2017, they were named Journalist of the Year by NLGJA – The Association of LGBTQ Journalists. Barnes covered Thomas throughout the season and documented her national championship performance in Atlanta in March.
Juju Chang is a multiple Emmy® Award-winning co-anchor of ABC News’ “Nightline.” She also reports regularly for “Good Morning America” and “20/20.” Chang’s decades of reporting converged in two hour-long primetime specials in 2021. She co-anchored an ABC News Live special “Stop The Hate: The Rise In Violence Against Asian Americans”; and after the mass shooting at three Asian-themed spas, Chang co-anchored and reported from the scene for an ABC News “20/20” breaking news special, “Murder In Atlanta,” which won a Front Page award in 2022.
Amanda Brooks, ESPN
Brooks Lancaster, ABC News