The Ones: Kori Carter
The hurdler explains how discovering her sport was “love at first flight.”
Words: Brandon “Jinx” Jenkins
“The Ones” celebrates a new generation of defiant, talented individuals. Click here for more stories about the cast.
In sport, the word “perfect” gets thrown around quite a bit. Perfect score. Perfect form. Perfect shot. Perfection is actually really hard to come by. The athletes who know this, and let failure inspire their progression, are the ones who typically rise above the rest.
Though she’s still only 26, hurdler Kori Carter decided to approach winning as a lifestyle a long time ago. For her, the competitive outcome isn’t really the point. It’s about grit and preparation. Even before she lifts off to overcome each hurdle, she’s already resolved to be great.
Born and raised in the suburbs of Claremont, California, Kori was always a naturally talented athlete. In track, she discovered a medium that required more effort and precision than other sports she’d tried. Once she found hurdling, “it was love at first flight,” she says.
During her time at Claremont High School, Kori trained to become a five-time State Champion hurdler. Her domination continued at Stanford University, where she became a nine-time All-American. Most recently, she earned gold at the 2017 World Championships in Athletics in London.
Though Kori would rather talk about self-discipline than winning, these accolades show that her commitment continues to pay off.
What made you decide to become a professional hurdler?
Hurdling is this beautiful combination of speed, grace, power and technicality. It was the first sport I really wanted to get better at. When I played soccer and basketball, I was always the most athletic athlete. Hurdling made me really want to work on my craft and study what I was doing.
What was the trigger or the moment that made you say, “This is my thing”?
I just fell in love with hurdling. It was love at first flight. I had always done team sports in the past. In hurdling, it’s just me out there, and I can only rely on myself. There’s strength and independence in that loneliness. I love the feeling of flying.
What did you think about track and field, at first? Did you see a place for yourself?
Honestly, I wasn’t thinking about being a professional athlete. I was thinking about being the best athlete I could be. All of a sudden, it became this thing like, “You just ran really fast. You could do this on the world stage. You could do this at an elite level.”
You sound confident about it. Was there any fear?
I don’t like to have fear, because God didn’t give me fear. You have your doubts, like when you’re growing up, and people are saying that they want to be astronauts or superheroes when they grow up. But that’s what athletes are, we’re superheroes. We do the most amazing things with our bodies.
It started off as this far-off dream, and then one day, it was reality. One day, you’re in college running against girls you’ve grown up with, and the next day, you’re standing next to your literal hero.
But it’s not “the next day.” It’s days, weeks, months and years of training, competition and development. Kori’s drive is not the result of being the best. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Her work ethic and focus come from knowing that she can always be better than she was yesterday.
Track is a very traditional sport with a lot of history. How do you bring new energy to it?
It’s one of the purest disciplines, because there are no referees or teammates. It’s like, “Who can run the fastest? Who can jump the farthest? Who can jump the highest? Who can throw the farthest?” I embrace the ancient history that track and field has, but I also want to do it my own way.
Are there lessons in hurdling that are transferable to life outside of the sport?
For one, being a winner is a lifestyle. It’s a choice, and it’s a habit. If I’m approaching everything like a winner, I know the “wins” will come. You make the decision to live your life at an elite level. I’m a worker. I will outwork any other person, because that’s the one thing I can control.
What do you want to be the future of your career and your presence in sport?
I’m establishing myself as not only a long-hurdler but a short-hurdler. I want to show my versatility — that I’m not just a one-trick pony. Even though I won one World Championship, now I’m like, “How can I do it again and be great consistently?” This whole time, I’ve been climbing to the top of the mountain. Now, I’ve gotta make sure I stay up there.
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