American shot putter Michelle Carter knows what she was designed to do and Who designed her for it.
The champion took gold in the 2016 Olympic Games after setting the American record in the event with a distance of 20.63 m. In doing so, Michelle became the first United States women's athlete to win the event since it became an Olympic sport in 1948, and only the second American woman to win an Olympic medal in shot put.
She is also a three-time bronze and one-time gold medallist in the World Championships and has been named a National Champion six times.
The 32-year-old, however, is characteristically modest about her achievements.
"The best piece of advice my father gave me was to always work hard," Michelle says.
Shot putting runs in her blood. Her dad, Michael Carter, won silver for the sport in the 1984 Olympics. He is now Michelle's coach, but he was not the one who got her into the sport.
"My junior high coach asked me to try out for the team, and I came home, and [my dad] was like, 'Alright, how do you feel about it?'" Michelle recalls. "I informed him that I was ready to go and from then on, it was full steam ahead."
Michelle admits that "people have higher expectations for me because of my dad's success and the opportunity to have him as my coach."
However, she says that she cares about something much more important: her personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
"I grew up in church. I do not know anything different," Michelle shares. "I received Jesus as my Saviour and was baptized [immersed in water as an outward sign of confession of sin] when I was around six or seven years old. So my faith has always been a big part of my life.
"I remember at the age of eight, I could not [even imagine] that God was not real. I remember times as a child when I would be in my bed praying about a problem. I always knew that whatever was going on, I could pray and God would take care of it."
For Michelle, the real test came when she went away to college, away from her structured life.
"I was faced with all the things that were going on around me that I was not accustomed to facing on my own," she recalls. "Enjoying my new-found freedom, I put my relationship with Christ on the 'back burner'.
"That's when I realised how hard life is when you are not close to Him. I knew that if I continued to stray away from Jesus and not do what He wanted me to do, I was not going to win in life. The older I get, the more I realise the things that I was taught at an early age apply to my life now."
Michelle acknowledges that her faith in Christ helps her to deal with the pressure that accompanies being an elite athlete.
"It is easier to deal with things that are not going my way on the track," she says. "I know the kind of God I serve and I know what He can do through me. I have been taught to believe and to have faith in Him and His plan for me."
Michelle is always careful to put God ahead of her career. During an international competition in Istanbul, Turkey, she and some of her teammates from the track wanted to have a Bible Study before the competition.
"There was no one else around so I opened a devotional book I was personally reading through and shared it with everyone," she states. "We talked about giving everything we had to God and trusting in Him. I even had a couple of teammates come up to me afterwards and tell me how God used that to speak to them."
That is what Michelle's goal is: to be a faithful witness for Christ wherever she goes. "I understand now that Christ [wants to] work through me so that others can get to know Him," she says. "If I want more people to get to know Jesus, I have to work hard to exemplify His presence in my life. I started thinking about how this is not about me, it's about Him; and by letting Him work through me I will be blessed and be a blessing."
But not everything has been a smooth ride for Michelle, especially in 2011.
"It was a hard year for me in my sport," she admits. "I almost wanted to quit and I started thinking about the pros and cons of continuing to throw. I was by far one of the weakest throwers, but I threw further than most. [Then I realized that] there has to be a reason why I was doing what I was doing with little effort. This has to be one of my gifts, a God-given talent."
Besides being involved in the sports field, Michelle is also a certified professional make-up artist.
She has focused on body image both on and off the field, talking to young women about confidence through her program, You Throw Girl.
"You have to understand everyone's body was built to do something," she explains. "I was built to do something, and that's how I was built. I think the world is realising we were promoting one body type and there have always been many."
Michelle has realised that her influence extends beyond the realm of athletics.
"People notice how I am living out my faith," she tells Athletes in Action. "Sometimes it takes me by surprise how much they notice. Even when no one is looking, the way I act is important because it is a reflection of how I walk with Christ.
"I have Christ in my heart, I already have the victory. Through Christ all things are possible." (Philippians 4:13)•