Title IX also helps athletes overseas

MILAN (AP) — For Maria Bulanova, it was a matter of surprise — that she could be drafted into Vanderbilt’s bowling team “from Russia.”

Like other international athletes playing college sports in the United States, she had little sense of Title IX when she was younger. But federal law has opened the door for thousands of foreign female athletes to get an American education and eventually a chance to live and have a career in the United States.

“People were surprised that Vanderbilt was able to recruit me from Russia,” Bulanova said. “They were like, ‘Oh, wow. Their recruiting is really diverse. Like, ‘Wow. They saw you all the way from there.'”

Bulanova was looking to bowl in Europe after completing her final year of school in Russia. In November 2015, she represented Russia at the World Cup in Las Vegas and performed well enough that several American colleges asked her to visit. She visited five colleges in one week in February 2016 before choosing Vanderbilt.

“What really set them apart was obviously the education. And I was also looking for a good bowling program where I know we’re going to win something, we’re going to be competing for the national championship. So Vanderbilt had both, and it was perfect,” said Bulanova, who graduated in 2020 and is now in her second year on tour with the Professional Women’s Bowling Association. She is also working on a master’s degree at St. Francis in New York, where she is an assistant coach.

Indeed, Bulanova helped Vanderbilt win her second national women’s bowling championship in 2018. There were also two other international players: Kristin Quah from Singapore and Emily Rigney from Australia.

Coach John Williamson started the Vanderbilt bowling program in 2004, relying on a club team, and has three national finalists in addition to two national championships.

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