By Dave Kiefer
Kori Carter had goals of making the U.S. national team and contending for a medal at the World Track and Field Championships in the 400-meter hurdles. Those goals were strengthened on June 7, when she broke collegiate and meet records while winning the NCAA championship in 53.21, the fastest time in the world this year.
But her world title hopes ended last Saturday when an intestinal virus prevented Carter from running in the semifinals at the USA Outdoor Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, costing her the chance to compete in the final for the team's three qualifying spots for the World Championships in Moscow.
The week already had been eventful. Carter signed with an agent, Wes Felix, and came to terms on a sponsorship contract with Nike, foregoing her final season at Stanford. However, the hurdler who set 11 school records for the Cardinal, earned nine All-America honors and won three Pac-12 titles, will remain on campus to complete her degree and train under Cardinal sprints/hurdles coach Jody Stewart.
On Monday, Carter spoke about the decision not to run Saturday and about reshaping her goals.
Q: Have you allowed yourself to watch the U.S. final (won by Delilah Muhammad in 53.83)?
A: I still haven't watched the video. I ended up not being near a TV when it was going on. But I'm happy for the girls who made it. They're great girls. It's just hard not being in the race, especially because I worked so hard to get to that position.
Q: What exactly happened on Saturday?
A: I woke up that morning of the semifinal not feeling well. I couldn't keep anything down. I was really dehydrated.
We thought about getting an IV, but because of USADA (the interpretation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency of IV treatment), we didn't do it.
We tried our best to put fuel back in me and to rehydrate myself, and made it to the track. Warming up, I kept trying to go, trying up to the last minute to get it together. But it just wasn't happening.
I think it was because I hadn't eaten anything all day because I couldn't keep anything down. I just was super lightheaded and dizzy. I couldn't get my balance together.
Coach finally said, "You know, if you can't even do walkover drills, what makes you think you can run a race?"
It was the worst possible time. A day later, I felt a little better and I definitely could have run. But, right then, we knew it was the right decision not to run. But it sucks that we had to make that call.
Q: For being in the best shape of your life (she had dropped her personal record in the event by nearly four seconds this year), this must be hard to fathom.
A: I feel like I've been on a roll for a while now. To have my chance at going to the World Championship stop right there was extremely frustrating. But my coaches were telling me, "Don't let it take away from the season that we've had."
I still have a lot to prove. I have proven that I am the hurdler that I think I can be, but I still have the potential to be the hurdler that I want to be. It's frustrating.
Q: Does not running nationals affect anything with the Nike deal?
A: Nike's been great about it. I'm sort of frustrated that the only time I put on a Nike uniform, I run a 55 (she ran 55.69 in the first round on Friday). But I'll get a chance later this summer and in the coming years to prove that Nike made a good choice in me. They were great about the whole situation. They were great about getting me medical attention.
Q: Now, you have to rearrange your goals.
A: I can't run for a world championship, so, I guess, my focus is on running for time. That's something that I usually don't like to do, because I like to chase W's and not seconds. I just have to go out there and run as fast as I can. I don't think 53.2 was my peak. I still think I have something left in me. Finding out what that is is going to be fun.
Q: Will you be resuming your training?
A: I'll go back into training. I'll juggle two classes and an internship (a human biology major, Carter will intern with a Menlo Park group that fits people for prosthetics) this summer.
Q: Will you focus on Diamond League meets or a specific race?
A: I'm not sure. I'm going to sit down with Coach Stewart and Wes and figure out a game plan. But I definitely want to run this summer. I definitely don't think that I did all I had to do this year. There are things on the table that I want to accomplish.
Q: So many things have changed over the past couple of weeks, how have you tried to get back to a sense of normalcy?
A: I guess the one thing that's stayed constant, is, though I'm running for a different organization, my goals are still the same. My love for hurdling is still the same. My focus is still the same I want to be the best hurdler out there. That stays constant.