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Michelle Carter Is Putting It Out There


Dave Hunter surrounded by the gorgeous quartet of [left to right]: Sharon Day Monroe, Tia Brooks, Shelby Vaughn, and Michelle Carter!!


When it comes to track & field - and the all that surrounds our sport - Michelle Carter likes to do it her way. It's not that she lacks respect for those who approach the sport differently than she does. Michelle Carter - the American outdoor standard bearer in the shot put with a 2013 record heave of 20.24m [66'4¾"] - finds the pathway that works for her - even if it is something as simple as adopting a nickname. "When I was in college [at the University of Texas], I was the only thrower on our team. And all the other girls were calling themselves 'The Track Divas' and they wanted me to join in," Carter explains. "But I'm not really a track diva because I'm not on the track like that. So actually, I started calling myself 'The Shot Diva' and it just stuck."

But there is more to Michelle Carter than merely a flashy moniker. With the American outdoor record throw and a rich performance résumé to back it up, Michelle Carter just might be the most prolific American female shot putter of all time. One of only three American women ever to crack the 20 meter barrier [20.18 for both Ramona Pagel (in 1988) and Jill Camarena-Williams (in 2011)], the Texas native has captured 3 NCAA national championships and 8 USA shot put titles. Starting with her first national team berth at age 15, Carter has been a fixture on Team USA where she has demonstrated continued progression that has earned her Pan Am and World Championship gold medals as a junior and bronze medals at both the 2012 World Indoor Championships and the 2015 World Outdoor Championships as a senior. The 30-year old Texan recognizes the importance of annual advancement. "It is always great to see that each year you are able to get better and place higher and higher at each championship."

Carter_Michelle1-Paris15.jpgCarter_Michelle1-Paris15.jpgMichelle Carter, Paris 2015, photo by PhotoRun.net

Michelle is often questioned about the unique multi-faceted relationship she shares with her father Michael Carter, and Olympic medalist in the shot put and a former San Francisco 49er nose guard who earned three Super Bowl championship rings. They share common bonds that go beyond the father-daughter relationship with Michael serving as Michelle's long-standing coach. The pair also stands alone as the only father-daughter duo to share USA national high school records in track and field: a 2003 put of 16.73m [54'10¾"] for Michelle and an absolutely astounding 81'3½" bomb by her father in 1979. "It is one combo that has never been done before and we were able to do it," notes Michelle with obvious pride. Working alone with her Olympic medal-winning father in one-on-one training sessions is the approach to the sport that works for her "I really don't know anything else," she confesses. "He's always been my coach. I don't know what it feels like to work with other people or even to have other training partners. It's always been me and him. But for me, it's normal. I think it would be kind of weird if I was with someone else and had other people training with me, because I'm not used to that." The special bond - devoid of the mercurial, emotional fireworks that challenged the Bobby Kersee/Jackie Joyner Kersee husband/wife training tandem - is solidified by the unconditional confidence and trust the athlete places in her coach. "At the end of the day, I know my dad wants what's best for me. And he makes decisions on what he believes is best for me," the younger Carter reveals. "And sometimes it only takes a conversation and really talking through some things to understand what we're trying to do and then we figure out the best way to go about it. And sometimes I just have to bite my tongue and do what he says because he is my coach and also he's my dad. We do have moments when we are able to talk and make sure we are on the right page. And I think that's important for any coach and athlete."

The training supervision from the Olympian father that successfully prepared the daughter for two Olympic appearances is a role that Michelle Carter is now adopting. "Where I am right now, I think I am kind of bridging the gap between generations because of the U.S. competition right now," Carter states. [American indoor shot put record-holder] Jill Camarena and I were able to break through some barriers and really put us on the global map as contenders for medals. The other girls who are now coming up in the sport and have just recently graduated from college now know that this is possible. This helps motivate the girls to stay in the sport longer because sometimes it takes longer for a woman shot putter to get to her prime. And every year, I am walking that walk with them. And I think that makes a big difference of actually keeping women in the sport and developing the future. After we're gone, somebody has to take our place. And we want make sure these girls know they can reach the top because we were able to do it."

"I am not a baby any more. I'm not new to the sport," declares Carter, always the realist. "I hold myself to a higher standard because not only am I doing this for me; I am doing it for the other girls. I make myself available as a mentor so that other girls can learn, 'Hey, you're in this sport, you're beautiful, you're strong, you're athletic, you can do this.' And you can make a good living out of it. You can be the best in the world if that's what you want to do. But it takes hard work and dedication. And that's how I view this now in the sport.

Carter knows about greatness. With 15 years of international competition, she has a solid shot put foundation built on the strengths she has bolstered and refined over the years. "I think the best part of the shot put for me is my flexibility and my ability to hit certain positions," she offers. "I am able to hit certain positions that other people may struggle doing. In high school, I was not the strongest girl. I could not do one pushup. And I was able to throw 54 feet in high school. One thing my dad really pushed me to do was to learn to hit these main positions. He told me if I hit those main positions, I could throw far. As I've gotten older, I found that working on my technique has further amplified some of the things I was already able to do. And I've gotten stronger. And you just build from there."

Now a time-tested and experienced thrower, Carter knows she must work on the details - the little things - she may have disregarded as a younger athlete. "The number one thing I am really focusing on in this off season is losing some weight. I have issues with my thyroid which jacks up your hormones and slows down your metabolism," the 2015 Diamond League shot put runner-up explains. "So in the last few years, I have put on 80 to 90 pounds due to my thyroid. But my doctor and I believe that we kind of have it under control to the point where I can really focus on losing the weight. I would like to lose 40 to 50 pounds. And that means my diet and doing cardio are going to be very important this year in my off season to get me back into shape and feeling great - just so I can move better. I am not use to being this heavy." Carter's goal is to couple the weight loss with added power. "The second thing is definitely getting stronger. Due to a couple of injuries, I have not been able to push myself in the weight room as I would like to. So this year, it's just kind of taking it slow and reminding my body what I can do and really just keep building as long as I can this year." Improved technique is also on Carter's list for this upcoming Olympic year. "You can do drills all day long perfectly. But there is a disconnect when I actually get to throw. So I know Dad is going to have me work extra hours focusing on my technique and being patient."

The shot put veteran does not plan to get distracted by the recently-emerging track & field revelations of the systematic and pervasive use of performance enhancing drugs in Russia and perhaps elsewhere. "To be honest, I try not to pay attention to that. But at the end of the day, my goal is to beat you - clean or dirty," Carter proclaims matter-of-factly. "I feel like my best is better than your dirtiest day. Regardless of what you're doing, it is not going to affect what I'm going to do or change what I'm going to do. To each his own. Once the performance enhancing drugs come to light, eventually you will get caught. And that's a risk you're willing to make. That's a decision you made. But I'm still going to do my part - rain or shine. And if you're dirty, I plan to beat you dirty. And if you're clean, I want to beat you clean as well."

Coming off yet another strong year in 2015, Carter - who intends to compete this winter and at Portland's World Indoor Championships in March - has thought at length on how she can continue her progression, how she takes that next big step to earn a position on a higher step of the podium. "I think right now for me it's in the little things," reveals the 6-time USATF outdoor national champion. "I have all the big pieces put together. But I always say that success is in the details. You can have all the big components, but if you don't pay attention to the small things, that's what makes or breaks you. And right now I have to pay more attention to detail in my technique, in my workouts, and even in just how I eat, and what time I go to bed. All these things I could get away with before are factoring in with everything I do. I have to be attentive about every single thing that I do in order to reach the next level in my career." After a pause, she takes a breath and adds, "And the next level for me is the Olympic gold medal."

Carter_MichelleFL-Worlds15.jpgCarter_MichelleFL-Worlds15.jpgMichelle Carter, World Champs 2015, photo by PhotoRun.net

The two-time Olympian knows the magnitude of the challenge that awaits her in the upcoming Olympic year. And she has authentic respect for the international shot putters she considers most elite: Germany's world champion and #1 on the 2015 world list Christina Schwanitz ("She was really focused this year. She had a great year."); China's world championship silver medalist Lijao Gong ("Gong is the youngest of the 4 of us. Just to see her doing well this year is great."); and comebacking shot put legend Valerie Adams of New Zealand ("I don't expect anything less from her other than she comes out to win."). "I think all of these girls are awesome."

Looking ahead and weighing her chances against the top trio of her international competitors, Michelle Carter realizes that the Rio gold medalist is likely to be a member of that foursome. "I think the 4 of us know what it is like to be so close to the top, close to the goal. This coming Olympic year is likely to be a good competition - almost a blood bath - between the four of us. I think any one of the four of us has the potential to get that gold medal. Of course, you can never count out anybody else who is working hard because at the Olympics anything can happen, anything is possible. It's anybody's game at the end of the day. It just depends who shows up that day." And let's be clear: multiple curtain calls would certainly be in order if The Shot Diva, attentive to all of those devilish details, could hit all the right notes and deliver a gold medal performance on track & field's biggest stage next August.


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Dunaway AwardAt the 2019 annual meeting of the Track and Field Writers of America, Dave was presented with the James Dunaway Memorial Award “for track & field journalism excellence.”

2020 Mid-American Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships

Dave HunterOn February 28-29, Dave served as the Color Analyst on the live ESPN3 broadcast of this championship gathering. Coverage of this 2-day conference championship can be viewed on the ESPN app.

Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.


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