USA track and field star Carmelita Jeter is ready for the gold. She knows this year’s London Summer Olympics is her time to shine. Jeter believes this is her season to firmly stake her claim to the “World’s Fastest Woman” title. In actuality, the 32-year-old Jeter has already proven that.
After running in the shadows of other elite runners at the start of her track career, Jeter (pronounced Jetter) has come on in recent years to dominate the sprints. Last fall, Jeter solidified her status as America’s top sprinter when she blazed her way to a 100-meter victory and anchored the United States 4 x 100 meter relay team to a first-place finish at the 13th annual IAAF World Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Daegu, South Korea.
Jeter, known in track and field circles as “The Jet,” credits her hard-driving work ethic and her unwavering faith in God as vital components in her long-awaited achievements.
“I’ve been working hard and I deserved it,” Jeter said. “You never know when your time is going to come…I knew my time would come. I have a strong belief, and I knew He was going to give it to me when I deserved it. In 2011, He gave it to me. I deserved it.”
Jeter also picked up a silver medal in the 200 meters to round out her successful international trip. That track meet was just a precursor to what Jeter expects to accomplish this summer. The former Cal State Dominguez track star is positioning herself for a run at a possible gold medal trifecta (100m, 200m, 400 x100m relay) at the Olympics.
“Going to the Olympics is something that is on my to-do list,” Jeter said. “I will definitely feel more accomplished.”
Jeter knows all eyes will be on her as she tries to make that happen. A six-time NCAA Division II All-American, and now the owner of three of the top 10 marks in the 100 meters ever recorded by a woman, Jeter has given people plenty of reasons to look. She turned more than a few heads when she blistered the track with a 10.64 clocking in the 100 meters at a 2009 meet.
No other woman, except for the great Florence Griffith-Joyner (10.49), has ever run faster. No other woman probably has the fortitude and determination like Jeter to run that fast. Four years ago, Jeter failed to make Olympic team. She finished with a disappointing 9th place showing in the 100 meters semifinals. She didn’t fare too much better in the 200 either, landing in the sixth spot of the top finishers. It was a humbling experience for Jeter.
But she was determined not to let her Olympic dreams go up in smoke. Jeter hooked up with veteran track coach John Smith. The results have been spectacular. Jeter has been ranked the top sprinter in the world the last three years by Track and Field News. She wants to extend her dominance on the track by erasing the memory of what happened in 2008 with an outstanding Olympic performance this go-round.
“Sometimes everyone needs a bit of a good reality check,” Jeter said. “Not making that team and talking with my agent…I wanted to make some changes. I have a great coach. I have a great family. I have a great team around me. With this team around me I’m able to keep excelling because I have nothing but positive people behind me. If you’re negative, you’re not in my circle.”
As the onslaught of media attention grows with each passing day, Jeter said her goal is to remain focused on the task at hand. The ever-growing pressure bubble is something she doesn’t even really consider. Handling real pressure are people who battle incurable diseases like cancer or breast cancer.
Jeter lost a grandmother to cancer. She had a cousin pass away from breast cancer. She now has an aunt who is a survivor of breast cancer. She has had friends who have seen family members perish in the same manner.
After losing her grandmother, Jeter decided to get involved with the Susan G. Koemen Foundation to help bring more awareness in the fight against breast cancer. The people who are steep in that battle are the real stars in Jeter’s eyes.
“Unfortunately, I’ve lost a number of family members to cancer and breast cancer,” Jeter said. “I hate to say that it takes something to hit home for you to really embrace a charity…But it did. It is something that I can relate to. I can put my heart and soul into it. I’m not just out there to shake and grin and smile and wave. I’ve dealt with it. I’ve cried at night. I can relate to the women who are out there.”
Note: This article originally appeared in the 2012 February edition of Beverly Hills Times Magazine.