Michelle Carter makes history in shot put, empowers young girls to do the same

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United States' Michelle Carter competes in the final of the women's shot put during the athletics competitions of the 2016 Summer Olympics at the Olympic stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Photo Credit: AP Photo / Matt Dunham

RIO DE JANEIRO – Michelle Carter had one shot left to make history.

The former Longhorn was already an underdog —no American had ever won gold in women’s shot put. And New Zealand’s Valerie Adams, a two-time gold medalist, stood in her way.

But for Michelle Carter, shot put is in her DNA. Her father and coach Michael Carter won the silver medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. And for years, it was her goal to beat him.

The 30-year-old had thrown five consecutive 19-meter throws — just a meter under Adams’ best. With the pressure on her last throw, Michelle Carter’s final shot soared 20.63 meters to secure the gold medal. The shot shattered her own American record of 20.42 meters and propelled her into history as America’s first woman to win gold in the event.

“Getting ready for my last throw I was just praying ‘Lord, help me give my all,’” she said. “I just wanted to give it my all and leave nothing in the tank.”

She said she couldn’t wait to show the medal to her dad, having finally triumphed over his record. Michael Carter said she has a reputation for saving the best for last and her medal-winning throw today was no different.

Her father said he was in complete shock when he realized she had won.

“Winning the gold medal at the Olympics, you’re the best in the world at that time,” Michael Carter said. “This only comes around once every four years or once in a lifetime. I’m numb right now.”

Michelle Carter approached her father 18 years ago, ready and willing to learn about the sport. Her father, former defensive tackle for the San Francisco 49ers, began teaching her everything he knew. Unlike football, Michael Carter said shot put requires dedication without the promise of national attention.

“You have to do this day in, day out, with no one watching,” Michael Carter said. “With football, you have someone motivating you and pushing you.”

Michelle Carter said she’s seen young girls and women turn away from the sport, afraid the strength required to throw shot means they aren’t feminine enough.

“I’m in a sport that people don’t look at us like women,” she said. “They don’t look at us being girly or feminine. But I’ve been girly all my life. I couldn’t separate the two between the sport and being a woman and being an athlete. I put the two together and do what I love to do.”

Active in combating the stereotypes that go along with her sport, she founded You Throw Girl in 2013. The sports camp motivates young female athletes to gain confidence and empowerment.

“I just encourage young girls to be true to themselves,” Michelle Carter said. “I love fashion, and I love throwing shot put. So I was just being true to who I am, and I want to show other girls: Be true to who you are.”