Three-time Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee said athletes planning to compete “can only focus on the things we can control,” like training, even as the International Olympic Committee has said it is committed to keeping the Tokyo Games on this summer, even as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread around the world. 

“I know the athletes are just focusing on getting ready and being prepared,” she told Cheddar Monday, just days after it was reported organizers discussed potentially hosting the Tokyo Games without fans. 

While those events remain in doubt, Joyner-Kersee, who competed in four Olympics, and now runs the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation to support young people in her hometown of East St. Louis, Illinois, pressed forward for female athletes at the highest levels fighting for gender equality and pay parity, stating that there “are changes, but there need to be more changes.”

Last year, the Women’s World Cup champions demanded equal pay with the men's national team, Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw attacked gender inequality in a viral speech, and women’s hockey players said they would sit out the 2019-2020 season to fight for better pay. 

“My advice to them is to continue to do what they’re doing,” she said of women in sports trying to make change. “You might not see the pace accelerating like you want but as long as you continue to bring it to the forefront, then eventually, and hopefully, change will come about.” 

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