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Title IX, the landmark federal law that banned gender discrimination in education programs that receive federal money and paved the way for equal opportunity to high school and college sports programs, is set to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2022.

But as the furor over the NCAA’s handling of amenities for the women’s basketball tournament compared to the men’s tournament has shown, some may say 1972 doesn’t seem so long ago.

Without that legislation, and later an important coach, it’s easy to wonder if one of the most decorated Olympic Track and Field athletes would have ever been seen.

East St. Louis native Jackie Joyner-Kersee, the six-time Olympic medalist, remembers wanting to participate in sports during grammar school before Title IX, except the gym teacher wouldn’t let her, advising her to move to cheerleading.

She found her way to sports primarily through youth activities outside of school, including the AAU.

Joyner-Kersee talked about her journey during “Title IX – The Landmark Legislation That Transformed American Sports”, an online event sponsored by The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum held Thursday night.

Once in high school, with Title IX now the law, there were girls sports, but due to facility conflicts, girls practiced at 6:30pm each night, a time of day Joyner-Kersee’s mother wasn’t fond of, to the point where she considered pulling her daughter out.

Nino Fennoy, her high school girls track and field coach, was a key figure, pointing to what was possible. “Girls can do this,” Joyner-Kersee said he implored back then. “There is a place for women in sports.”