UPDATE: Michelle Carter won gold in Rio Friday, making her the first American woman to win a gold medal in that event.
ORIGINAL STORY: It took Michelle Carter’s best throw of the year to win the Olympic shot put trials last month. The former Texas Longhorn All-American, NCAA champion and U.S. National champion qualified for her third Olympics and is looking to improve upon a fifth-place finish in London in 2012.
While Carter isn’t the only former Longhorns competing in various sports in Rio – there are 20 in total, with 13 competing for the United States – she is uniquely positioned to make U.S. Olympic history.
But, Carter and her fellow Longhorns are headed to a games mired in a parade of controversies that could rival Carnival’s Sambadrome.
There’s the Zika virus, the pollution, the construction issues, the crime.
There’s the doping scandal that has barred the Russian track team from the games. Oh and, by the way, the Brazilian economy is struggling, while its President has been sidelined as she awaits a hearing that could have her removed from office on charges that may or may not have been trumped up by the Vice President, who is now in charge.
But those are issues for another day. With the games underway, Americans are focused on their TV screens and the pursuit of medals.
Carter is focused on the shot put, something she’s been working at too long to let distractions interfere.
She began throwing – as the insiders call it – in seventh grade. When she got home, her dad had some questions.
“He asked me tons of questions like ‘Who said something to you? What did they say? How did they present it to you?’ And I’m trying to figure out, like, why is he asking me all of these questions? He said, ‘You don’t understand now, but one day you will.’”
It wasn’t until high school that she realized her dad, Michael Carter, was the 1984 silver medalist in the shot put. He went on to win three Super Bowls as a defensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers.
“He never wanted to pressure me to do what he did. If I chose it, it had to be my choice, and he didn’t want me to do it because of what he’s done,” she said.
Something must be in the genes. Michelle Carter and her dad hold the national high school records for girls’ and boys’ shot put, respectively.
This week they could become the first father-daughter medalists in the same individual event in U.S. history.
“This is my third Olympics. It’s not the easiest job being a female thrower because you have to worry about your sponsorships and, you know, if you’re going to have enough money to do what you do. But hard work pays off and sometimes it’s delayed gratification," Carter said.
The women’s shot put competition is this Friday.