A glance at Kym Carter's career history gives one the impression that her switch from the high jump to the heptathlon came overnight, perhaps the result of an illuminating vision. To hear her tell it, the heptathlon always lurked in her future, and she knew it even back in high school, where she was a 6-2.25 high jumper. She had said at the time, "The heptathlon may not be as far down the road as I'd like it to be."
She managed to postpone the multi-event for five years while she high jumped collegiately for Houston and LSU. Finally, she tried it as a Tiger senior, finishing 2nd at the SEC meet. Unfortunately, she ripped her quadriceps at that meet, and after nationals she took an extended sabbatical from the sport. "I just took those two years to recuperate and figure out if I wanted to come back and do it again. I finished my degree and graduated. In December 1988 I moved to Eugene and started to train again after a year and a half off."
When Carter re-emerged in 1990, she had become a full-fledged heptathlete. "I had hit a plateau in the high jump and I was real flat. It wasn't like a career decision. The injury wasn't a factor in my not doing the high jump anymore. I felt that I had a lot of ground to cover in doing the heptathlon better." That summer she scored 6003 points to place 5th at the USA Championships. A year later, she improved to 6183 and made her first major international team, taking 20th at the World Championships in Tokyo.
In the Olympic year of 1992, Carter placed 3rd in the Trials and 11th at Barcelona. She would only get better. She earned her first World Ranking in 1993 (No. 8). By 1995, her PR had jumped to 6371. At Gothenburg she finished 5th, her best finish ever at a World Championships or Olympics. She ended the season ranked No. 1 in the U.S. (9 in the world), marking the first time since 1985 that another American outranked Jackie Joyner-Kersee in the multi (excepting 1989, when JJK didn't compete in one). The previous American to outrank JJK? Jane Frederick, who coaches Carter.
"When I look at the entire season," Carter explains, "I'd say it had more pluses than minuses. I think it was good preparation for this year. Every year that I work on the heptathlon I feel like I'm getting one step closer to the goals that I set for myself. Of course, everybody would like to score a little higher, do a little better. I had some good consistent performances, so I can't complain."
The American Record-holder for the heptathlon 800, Carter is famous for finishing heptathlons strongly. She works with former heptathlon great Frederick out of Santa Barbara, where Frederick coaches at the collegiate level. Carter, who has a degree in broadcast journalism, works as program director for the local Boys & Girls Club. "I wanted to give back some way," she says of her job.
"The kids may have seen me on television or in the paper, but that's not really the person I am when I'm here. I put track pretty much behind me when I come to work. My focus is on programming and what they've got going on in their lives. I'm more a person than an athlete. It was such a detriment to so many athletes and actually to people for Charles Barkley and some other high-profile athletes to comment that they're not role models. You can't choose that. You can't say, 'Don't look at me.' I just try to let the kids know that regardless of your background or your level in the world, we're all role models. It's your choice whether you're going to be a positive or a negative one."
Born March 12, 1964 in Inglewood, Ca 6-2/1.88m 178/80kg East HS (Wichita, Ks) '82 Houston '86; LSU '87 Reebok PRs (outdoor): 200--24.00 '93 800--2:06.80 '92 100H--13.53 '93 (13.48w '95) HJ--6-2.25/1.89 '82 LJ--20-7.75/6.29 '95 SP--52-8.75/16.07 '94 JT--133-5/40.66 '92 Hept--6371 '94 PRs (indoor): 800--2:09.66 '94 60H--8.37 '95 HJ--6-2/1.88 '93 LJ--20-0.5/6.11 '95 SP--51-1/15.57 '95 Pent--4632 '95 (AR) (4696-oversized track '95) Major Meets (Heptathlon unless noted): 1980 7)USA HJ 1980 nh-q)Olympic Trials HJ 1982 11)USA HJ 1984 =4)USA Indoor HJ 1984 =12)NCAA HJ 1984 =19q)Olympic Trials HJ 1985 =5)NCAA Indoor HJ 1985 =18q)NCAA HJ 1986 =4)NCAA Indoor HJ 1986 =8)USA Indoor HJ 1986 10)NCAA HJ 1987 3)NCAA Indoor HJ 1987 7)NCAA HJ 1987 6)NCAA 1987 =14)USA HJ 1990 5)USA 1991 3)USA 1991 20)World Championships 1992 nh-q)Olympic Trials HJ 1992 3)Olympic Trials 1992 11)Olympic Games 1993 6)World Indoor Pent 1993 2)USA 1993 6)World Championships 1994 7)USA Indoor 800 1994 3h)USA Indoor 60H 1994 5)USA Indoor HJ 1994 1)USA 1995 1)USA Indoor Pent 1995 2)World Indoor Pent 1995 2)USA 1995 5)World Championships 1996 6)Olympic Trials