Carmelita Jeter Isn’t "Trying" To Run Fast… Not Quite Yet
by Jon Hendershott
The day before Carmelita Jeter headed off from Los Angeles to Korea for Wednesday’s IWC meet in Daegu—site of her first world 100 title last summer—the 32-year-old sprint queen shared some thoughts with us looking ahead to the Olympic Trials:
T&FN: You started this season—which you yourself have said is going to be a long year with the Olympics—with a 22.31 for 200 in mid-April and then a 10.81 in your first 100 in Kingston on May 5. So what do times like those this early tell you about where you are in your season overall and also in an Olympic season?
Jeter: Overall, those times show my fitness. They definitely show that I’ve been training really hard to prepare for the Olympics. I’m gearing for that.
I wasn’t trying to run fast right now; it just so happened that I did. So we were very excited about that, but you know, John’s [coach Smith] plan is to make the team. That’s the No. 1 goal, so he’s not training me to be specifically fast now. I was just fortunate that I was able to pull out some good times, with my strength.
Right now, I just believe that I’m definitely fit. But I did those races more to sharpen my mind up. I didn’t run indoors at all, so I had been training for a very long time. So we both felt that if there was anything that needed to be sharpened up it was my mind.
Sharpen up that competitive urge to be racing. When you’re training a lot, you’re in that mode and your mentality is to train, not to race. So you want to get in some races so you can get that race mentality back.
T&FN: So if John’s first goal is to make the team, does that mean 100 first, then the 200? Or see what happens in the 100 before you even think about the 200? How are you approaching the Trials?
Jeter: I’m looking at the Trials with the 100 being the first event I’m going to tackle, being that it is held first. At the ’09 nationals, I wasn’t able to run the 200, which was my plan, because I cramped at the end of the 100 final.
So I’m going this year with the idea of running the 100 and 200. But at the end of the day, I’m also going with the idea of being smart. Really make sure that my body is prepared to do certain things. From the Trials to the Olympics, the interval is very short. So my coach, my agent [Chris Layne] and I will make decisions based on what is best after the 100.
But bottom line, the plan is for me to the run the 100 and 200.
T&FN: But the 100 is first and it’s…
Jeter: On the top of my agenda, absolutely.
T&FN: You were 5th in your semi at the ’08 Trials.
Jeter: I wasn’t training with John Smith then and I didn’t make the 100 final.
T&FN: So in light of not making that final at the last Trials but also considering all that has happened since, what was the effect—on your determination and your whole career—of not making the 100 at the ’08 Trials?
Jeter: I will have to go with the disappointment. Sometimes it takes that feeling of a huge disappointment to really boost you into doing better. I didn’t like that disappointment; I didn’t like not being there at all. I had to watch the Games on television at home.
That’s a hurtful feeling, especially when you know you should have been there. The old saying is that everything happens for a reason and in one way it was the worst thing that could have happened to me—but in another way it was the best thing that could have happened to me.
It was a situation where I didn’t make the team, but then I found a great coach. And my mindset changed. If I had made that team in ’08, would I be as good as I am now? That’s the big question mark.
There are so many shoulda-coulda-wouldas, but I know that not making that team definitely pushed me to becoming the athlete I am now.
T&FN: Last year was better in many ways than even in ’09 when you ran so fast [PRs of 10.67, then 10.64 to become No. 2 all-time] in that you finally got your individual world title and also a relay win. What have been the effects of finally winning that world title, being ranked No. 1 and being U.S. AOY? In general but also looking toward the Olympic season?
Jeter: Winning the title definitely was something I needed to do. I was tired of hearing, “Oh, she can’t start.” Or “Oh, she can’t come through at championships.”
I thought that was so funny because the first Worlds I ever went to [’07], I got a bronze medal. And in the second one, I got another bronze medal People would say I would get to championships but not do what they thought I was supposed to do. Yet I won those medals, so that’s why those comments were hilarious to me.
So I needed to win that gold medal. I was the fastest woman in the world and had a lot of accolades—but I didn’t have the hardware. That was my drive; to get the hardware.
Does that help me for the Olympics? Well, I took 2nd in the 200 last year. So there’s always something to keep that flame going. Something to keep the eye of the tiger, I guess you could say.
But I’m not done; I’m not finished—because I haven’t made an Olympic team. So if anything, I’m motivated by that right now. Yes, I do have some gold medals now, but I also have a different motivation. I want to be in the history books for making the team.
T&FN: Yet it is a one-step-at-a-time thing right, because you have to make the team, earn the uniform, before you can even begin to think about any Olympic medals?
Jeter: You definitely can’t count your chickens before they hatch. I’m definitely focused on the Trials because that’s the first stop I have to make. Everyplace is a stepping stone that you have to make to get to the next place. Right now, the Trials is what it is.
T&FN: Before Jamaica, you were quoted that the 22.31 early in the 200 was partly because John had had you doing a lot of quartermiler training.
Jeter: [deadpans] That wasn’t fun. I did not like it. But I know that my coach knows what he is doing. I trust what he does and the strategies and workouts he puts together. So I trust him. When he told me I needed to do more of certain things, then I did them. If you question your coach, then you’re going to question what you do on the track.
So there’s no questioning of him by me—if I question him, then it’s time for me to leave. I believe in everything he says and what he wants me to do. When he told me there were things I needed to do that would help make my 200 stronger, I was like, “Oh, okay.” I may not have liked it, but I did it without complaining. I’m not a complainer. I think John would say I’m an easy athlete to coach because I don’t complain. I don’t question. He says hit the line, I’m going to hit the line.
T&FN: And you can see already that the 400 training will make you stronger for both sprints and especially when you turn to more sprint-specific work. But main thing is to do what so many athletes have said this year: stay healthy.
Jeter: Those are the magic words. If you’re dinged up, it really makes a dent in your training. So you’ve got to stay healthy, stay on top of it. And Dr. Dossman [Long Beach-based chiropractor Dr. Craig Dossman] does an amazing job with my body.
And yes, you have to stay healthy to train strong so then you can race strong.
Now I’m off to Daegu for a 100 and then my first Diamond League meet will be in Shanghai [on May 19] in the 200.
T&FN: Finally, you have a very interesting-looking tattoo down the side of your upper right thigh. What is it?
Jeter: It’s a dragon. I was a lot younger when I got it, a freshman in college. You know, everything changes after 25 and then after 30. Now I’m 32… my mom always said, “You’re going to regret that someday.”
Now it’s funny because when I see her, I just say, “Oh mom, you make me sick.” But you grow and change. Now it’s a part of me and people notice it when I’m running. So I guess it’s my trademark.
T&FN: Other than running fast.
Jeter: I would rather have that as my trademark.