Michelle Carter: Shot Putting and Still CUTE
As I waited in the room where Michelle Carter once attended youth drama as one of my students at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church, my mind traveled to the time I first met this little sweet, shy, and beautiful eleven-year old girl. Despite the fact that today, this young lady stands as a two-time Olympian shot put thrower, ranks number 1 in the USA and number 3 in the world in her class, her sweet demeanor and engaging smile still remain. Dressed in her work out attire and sipping on a cool summer drink, she strolled into the room. After our usual mother to daughter greeting (aka, hugs and kisses), we sat down for a few minutes to chat about our families. But because inquiring minds wanted to know more about this dynamic young woman, the time came to explore Michelle’s world of track and field.
Throwing since 1997, Michelle excels at the national and international level in shot put. As an American Record Holder and 7-time USA Champion, she proves to be a stellar athlete. In 2015, she won the World Championship Bronze Medal. This year, Michelle was named the 2016 female Olympic Team Captain by her TeamUSA teammates. Now on her way to her 3rd Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, she stands destined to win the gold.
Born to Michael and Sandra Carter, and raised in Ovilla, Texas, Michelle excelled in high school. She won back to back championships in the shot put and discus, and she set the state record in discus. Michael, her father, was a great athlete as well. He played nose tackle for the San Francisco 49ers, earning 3 trips to the Pro Bowl and winning 3 Super Bowls in his NFL career. He also reigns as the 1984 Olympic Silver Medalist in shot put. I wondered what it was like growing up as the daughter of such an accomplished athlete. Nonchalantly, Michelle stated it felt normal. “It was just like growing up with any other dad. He went to work and he came home and that’s how my parents treated it.”
Still, I would suspect that her father’s track and field success influenced her decision to compete. But Michelle said he always encouraged her and her siblings to do whatever they wanted to do—just do it well. And of course, since Michelle chose the sport he competed in, her father became her coach, striving to teach her everything he knew about shot put and discus. Michelle recalled, “Since he has accomplished so many things in his career, he was able to pass that on to me and teach me that on the hard days you have to push through it, or when things are not working right, you work harder.” She went on to say that he always reminds her of this, which keeps her moving forward. Michael and Michelle share a unique bond being the only father-daughter duo in shot put, and Michelle’s love for her father is very evident as she speaks about him.
I shifted our conversation to focus more on her. During this season of her life, Michelle views throwing the shot put as a gift. “God has given me a major, major platform for my gift to shine and He is shining through me.” Even though she faces many obstacles, she feels that He gives her the ability to overcome them. “That’s how I really believe this is my purpose and I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing and I am exactly where I am supposed to be.”
The image of a female athlete competing in the Olympics usually brings certain expectations and unspoken standards. Michelle, a beautiful full-figured woman, agrees that using the term athlete conjures up expectations of somebody super lean and muscular. She explained that when you view all the events and sports incorporated into the Olympics, you realize different sports require many different body types. “Gabby Douglas is built the way she is built because she is meant to be a gymnast to do all the flips and flying in the air. I have the body to throw the shot put. Now if we were to switch events and switch sports, I don’t think I’d do as good with a backflip and flipping in the air as she does, and I don’t think she can throw the shot put as far as I can.”
When asked how she prevents herself from being caught up by media influence or social pressure, Michelle advises to simply do what works for you. She stressed that what works for one person, doesn’t work for another. She knows how she wants to present herself. She knows how she wants to look, and she simply sticks to that. “I know for me, I’m not going to wear those little booty shorts and that kind of stuff because that’s just not for me. I don’t feel comfortable in them and it’s not how I want to be represented.” Michelle explained that she looks at the fashion trends and puts her own twist on them. She makes them a little different to add her personal touch.
“Tell me about Shot Diva,” I asked, and she immediately bursts into laughter. She explained that the other girls called themselves track divas, but she was a thrower, so she needed a different name. She came up with Shot Diva and it stuck. It involves a combination of two things that Michelle absolutely loves: throwing the shot put and being a diva, which means making sure she looks nice. “I’m just that diva. I bring that flair and femininity to what I do which is something not known for someone throwing the shot put. You don’t think of someone girly or feminine throwing this heavy ball in some dirt. But I can do that. I wear my lashes, make sure my hair is done, and make sure my nails are painted. I always say, ‘You look good, you feel good, you do good.’ So I always want to look my best, so I can feel my best, so I can do my best!” She also started a make-up company using the Shot Diva name. She enjoys doing make up and feels it’s an art which allows her to make ladies feel good about themselves.
This led our conversation to the concept of CUTE. Michelle stated that being CUTE means being confident. She knows what God has created her for and who He wants her to be. Just knowing He lives in her, protects her and gives her strength to do what she desires assures her of His covering. She feels she can walk with confidence knowing that she never walks alone. “I have somebody that’s bigger and greater than me backing me up. So I am good… I’m just CUTE” (to which she added… ‘All the time’ as we laughed).
In fact, her start up camp, You Throw Girl Sports Confidence Camp, helps build up the confidence in female athletes. It teaches them the basics such as how to take care of themselves and hold healthy views of their appearances. It also explains the importance muscles play in their abilities to compete. She tries to help them understand: they are not guys, they are girls and differences exist for females athletes. She wants them to compete confidently in their own bodies. Michelle also relies on scripture to remind her of His covering. Her favorite verse Philippians 4:13 reads, “I can do all things through Christ Jesus which strengthens me.” The verse emphasizes the fact that she can do ALL things with His strength, not just some or a few things. She dreamed about the verse numerous times pondering the meaning. Finally, she understood that the dreams gave her confidence. “I don’t have to believe in myself, but believe in Jesus who is in me and who He is to me and the strength, gifts and talents He has given me to do whatever it is He wants me to do. Fear can move to the left because it’s not going to be a factor anymore.” She now feels she can accomplish whatever she needs to in life.
Before our time concluded, I surprised Michelle with a question about a secret talent hidden from most people. Michelle sings. She laughed and tried to figure out how I discovered it. She reminded me of how she struggled in youth drama being scared to death of doing anything public or on stage. “Now I can go and speak in front of people and it’s no problem.”
She admits that she always wanted to sing the National Anthem and she’s been able to do it a few times. She performed the song once in high school at Red Oak and then last year at the United States of America Track and Field (USATA) National Conference. This year, she gave a rendition for the Wisconsin Coaches Association. She really enjoys singing. So when her track and field days are over, does she have a future in singing? “I think it might be something going on with that a little later on in life, but we will see,” she says with a big smile.
As we wrapped up our time, I asked Michelle what she would do when she won the gold. She shouted, “I’m going to Disney Land!” After much laughter, she admitted the desire to buy a house. But she’s not done yet, as she declared that she would compete again in 2021, which gives her a chance at four Olympics and numerous world championships. “As a thrower, we hit prime later in life, early to mid-thirties. I will just depend on where the Lord takes me from here…we’ll see what happens.” With laughter and hugging, we agreed because she is CUTE, she would bring home the gold!