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Track and field Olympian Michelle Carter says that girls shouldn't have to settle for just being one thing.
While recently chatting with PEOPLE about having to sit out of the upcoming Tokyo Summer Olympics, the 35-year-old shot put medalist also opened up about the idea that female athletes can't be both feminine and athletic.
Carter says "being an athlete isn't all of who we are," calling out the "outdated perspective of a female athlete."
"We are women at the end of the day and being an athlete is just part of what we do and who we are," she continues. "So for me, I've learned how to really embrace both sides of me of being this great athlete, but also leaning into my femininity, knowing that that's part of my superpower. And I can't take it away if I wanted to."
"People should broaden their view on how they view female athletes, because at the end of the day, before they became an athlete, they were a woman," Carter — known widely as the "Shot Diva" — adds.
Later this summer, Carter will lead her sports confidence camp, You Throw Girl, which she founded several years ago. The idea for the positivity-based camp, which meets one weekend a year and inspires girls to be both feminine and athletic, was inspired by conversations she was having with parents of young women.
"My journey first began when I made my first Olympic team. I received a lot of messages and feedback from people just saying, like, when they saw me, they related to me ... Especially with parents," Carter tells PEOPLE. "The parents were like, 'I love how you're just out there being yourself, you're this strong, plus size woman, and you're confident. How can I get my daughters to be like that? How can I build my daughter's confidence up?' "
Photography © 2018 by Lydia Reddic
The camp based in Dallas, Texas, features "varieties of workshops" set up for the young girls over a two-and-a-half-day experience.
"We go over goal setting and we do vision boards," she details. "I have a friend that comes in teaches an etiquette class, we do self-defense because I know that young ladies can get into situations and sex trafficking is at an all-time high, so I wanted to provide tools for the young girls to protect themselves if ever they were in a situation."
Photography © 2018 by Lydia Reddic
"I teach them age-appropriate makeup tips, and we go over how to care for your hair and care for your skin. And then we put on a little bit of makeup, and they get all dressed up and I take them to a really, really nice restaurant so they can feel special for one day," she continues. "And I love that part because you get to see all the girl personalities pop up, especially with their little outfits."
"I also have an adolescent OBGYN come and talk to the girls about puberty and the changes of their body are going through, so they know that what's normal, what's not normal, what's okay and what's not okay, so they can really be knowledgeable and learn more about their bodies as they mature into young women," Carter notes, adding of the whole experience, "I just love it. We have such a good time."
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Looking ahead, Carter says that she has hopes to expand You Throw Girl to more areas and reach more young girls.
"Right now, we only hold it once a year in Dallas, but I'm definitely looking to hold it in multiple locations across the country," she says. "I'm definitely looking for those opportunities so that people don't have to travel so far back and I reach as many girls as possible."
But, for now, Carter has some words of wisdom for young girls who she may not be able to reach through her camp and may be struggling through a variety of issues.
"My biggest advice is don't be afraid of who you are," she tells PEOPLE. "Everyone is different and being different is what makes us special."
"And if you're different is different than everybody else, that means you're just that much more special," Carter adds. "And don't be afraid to be all of who you are."