When your father is Michael Carter—the only athlete ever to win both an Olympic medal and a Super Bowl title within the same year—it’s hard not to feel pressure to live up to legacy. But daughter Michelle Carter did just that this past summer when she became the first American woman ever to win an Olympic gold medal in the shot put, breaking the U.S. record along the way with her final throw of 67 feet, 8.25 inches.
Growing up in Red Oak, Texas, Carter says her father—who has an Olympic silver medalist in the shot put from the 1984 Games and three Super Bowl Championship rings from his time with the San Francisco 49ers (1984-1992)—wanted her to be active, but didn’t care which sport she chose. “My dad just let us pick what we wanted to do,” she told Excelle Sports. “It wasn’t an issue if we didn’t pick his sport or not.”
But after trying soccer and basketball, Carter says she naturally gravitated toward one of her father’s sports—the shot put—in middle school. Shortly after, in seventh grade, her father became her coach. “He said, ‘If you are going into shot put, I’m going to coach you so I make sure you do it right,’ she said. “And he has been my coach ever since.”
Fast forward nearly 20 years and father Michael is still Carter’s coach, having successfully guided her to three Olympic Games, an Olympic gold medal, a World Championship gold medal and two World Championship bronze medals in the shot put. Passing on his knowledge of the sport while instilling work ethic and perseverance all while maintaining the balancing act between his role as a coach and as a father is a feat that nearly supersedes his impressive athletic accomplishments.
Balancing her two roles as daughter and athlete can be a challenge for Carter, too.
“It’s hard to separate the two,” she said. “I don’t think I ever actually separate the roles but I do understand that, you know, things are different once we are at practice versus when we are at home and there are different expectations for both areas. When I’m on the field, I know he is expecting me to do certain things and then at home, there is a different set of expectations.”
[More from Excelle Sports: Water Polo Olympian KK Clark on her aunt, swimmer Marybeth Dorst]
It’s no surprise that Michael expects the same kind of greatness from his daughter that he strived for as an athlete. “He is a little strict at practice—I mean, he is a strict parent—but at practice, he really wants to see whatever he tells me to do or tells me to fix, he wants to see it right then, just how he wants it, versus at home, where he may not be as strict,” Carter said.
There are other challenges, too, to being coached by your father—especially when your father was one of the best athletes in the country at the sport you now play.
“He thinks he knows everything,” Carter laughs. “I guess one thing about being a [great] athlete is that [you think] you’ve been there, done that, and sometimes you may forget that other people’s experiences are a little different. Sometimes we have to sit there and compare notes, that we are two different people and we operate differently. What may work for him may not work for me, and we try to find that common ground where it works for everybody.”
Carter continues that healthy communication has been what has rooted the father-daughter team and helped her to achieve her gold-medal dreams.
“Sometimes as an athlete, you kind of want to get your point across and that’s that, but you have to remember that, at the end of the day, he is still your coach and you still have to keep the respect factor in there,” she said.
[More from Excelle Sports: Hayley and Aaron Peirsol’s bond goes way beyond the pool]
Off the field, Carter says her family, which includes her mother, Sandra, her brother Michael and her sister D’Andra, is highly competitive.
“Everything is a competition,” she laughed. “Let’s say we have a stack of cards and he wants to throw cards into a bin and now we are counting who can get the most cards into the bin. So it’s always some kind of competition in everything. It’s over small things—we never compete over major things. We let each other have their time to shine or be great at whatever it is that they are doing.”
With the support of her father, Carter started You Throw Girl, a sports confidence camp for young female field athletes that she hopes will give them “the tools to help carry themselves as female athletes,” she said. She particularly wants to help them ignore the traditional stereotypes that women need to be thin rather than strong.
“Make sure they are eating right and understanding that their body is going to look different than the average woman,” she said. “We want to make sure they are training right and we go over any issues they may have.” Her vision is to empower young women—a similar goal that her father has had in coaching her, she adds.
Carter’s résumé doesn’t stop at Olympic gold medalist and mentor to young women—she’s also a certified makeup artist, a passion that she picked up at her first Olympic Games in 2008 in Beijing.
“When we were getting ready to do different events, I would be getting dressed and some of my friends were asking me to put makeup on their faces,” she said. “While I was doing a good friend’s makeup, she told me, ‘You know what, you should definitely do this as a side job and get paid to do this.’ I said, ‘You know what? That’s true!’ I had never thought about it like that so I took some classes and it went from there.”
Today, Carter hopes to create her own makeup line, but until then, she has her eyes set on the Worlds this summer in London and training to make what will be her fourth Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.
Follow Michelle on Twitter @ShotDiva.