February 12, 2013

How Title IX Led to Olympic Gold

Nancy Hogshead-Makar

I came very close to missing the sudden burst of athletic opportunities created by Title IX, including an athletic scholarship to Duke University and my Olympic medals. Title IX passed in 1972, and the next year I started swimming seriously at age 11. The regulations applying the law to athletics were published in 1975, and I was headed to my first senior nationals at age 12. In 1977, I was ranked No. 1 in the world in the 200-meter butterfly at age 14.

Back then a reporter asked me if I was training for the 1980 Olympics scheduled to take place in Moscow. “Yes!” I enthusiastically replied. “The timing is perfect because women’s bodies peak around age 18.” (Dara Torres hadn’t yet shattered those myths.) It didn’t seem unusual to me that our club team doubled during the summer with male swimmers coming home from college, with no female counterparts in sight. Women just didn’t swim in college, and that was that.

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