Fastest woman alive: Carmelita Jeter reflects on Olympic glory and her journey to greatness


"It's the mind that separates the good from the great."

There are few athletes who can say that with the same conviction as Carmelita Jeter. Across a career punctuated by Olympic glory and 100-metre times that shocked the sport, the great American sprinter proudly holds the title as the 'fastest woman alive'. 

In an exclusive interview with GiveMeSport, she talked us through the mental fortitude needed to survive amongst track and field's elite; flattening the obstacles that stand between failure and success. Jeter endures as an inspiring figure in the sport and her passion - unaltered by retirement - was palpable through the phone.

So, although seven years have now passed, reflecting upon the 4x100m relay world record from the London Games still holds the same emotional resonance. "It was an explosion of emotions and an explosion of feeling that I’d accomplished my goals. It was just a lot of energy," she mused.

"Losing my aunt that year to breast cancer was very hard, emotionally draining and that relay was the last race I had in London, so it was the last race where I could explode from being hurt, being angry and being upset that my aunt was taken from me. It was so many emotions, both good and bad, it just all came out when I crossed the finish line."

Olympic glory in 2012

The image of Jeter pointing her baton as the Omega clock flashed 'WR' endured as one of the most iconic moments from 2012. Alongside the omnipotent trio of Allyson Felix, Tianna Bartoletta and Bianca Knight, they raised two fingers to suggestions that Team USA had selected the wrong line-up.

Jeter continued: "There have been so many faster American teams before us at the Olympics and they just couldn’t get it together. When the chemistry is aligned and everyone believes in the next person, you’re going to get the job done and we didn’t only get the job done, we broke a world record.

"Biannca Knight wasn’t the fastest woman on that team to be a part of the relay, she was the slowest woman and had only ran 11.3 seconds in 2012, but we knew that she would bring the energy, she would bring the drive and she would give me the stick." 

(From L) US' Bianca Knight, Allyson Feli

'The fastest woman alive'

But what about her status as the fastest woman alive? It's an incredible moniker to carry and a reminder that only the great Florence Griffith-Joyner - who sadly passed in 1998 - has covered 100 metres faster than Jeter's 10.64 seconds from 2009.

The California-born sprinter had been written off by so many throughout her career, but the historic times she recorded in Thessaloniki and Shanghai were indisputable vindications of her speed. "I said I was going to run 10.6 and people probably thought ‘she’s so cocky, she’s so arrogant’ but I still tell my athletes now: ‘say how you feel, speak it into existence and watch it unfold.’ 

"And that’s exactly what happened to me in 2009, I said I was going to run 10.6, I did it in Thessaloniki, people said ‘oh it was lucky, it was windy’ so I said ‘ok, let’s see what happens in Shanghai.’ And I went even faster, how about that?

"I can't tell you what it feels like. It's like when people say they had 'tunnel-vision' and they were blocked out, I truly believe them. I definitely know the feeling of being in a zone, I can't describe how that felt when I was running, everything was working just right."

That incredible vein of form sees Jeter hold three of the ten fastest 100m times in history, tantalisingly close to the marks set by Griffith-Joyner in Indianapolis and Seoul. Although she would never replicate those dizzying heights again, they were swiftly followed by victory at the 2011 World Championships and a three-medal haul at the proceeding Olympiad. 

Carmelita Jeter of US reacts after winni

Bronze medal with 'one leg'

Yet - as far as Jeter herself is concerned - winning the bronze medal at Moscow 2013 was the accolade that meant the most. Miraculously competing through a torn quadricep, she cites complete dedication to mental focus as the reason for her achievement, overcoming some of the world's fastest women with only 'one leg.'

Recalling that herculean moment, she explained: "Your mind has to be able to step up when the body can no longer go. Everyone is tired in the final, nobody is out there feeling 100%, it's been a long year and it's the mind that separates the good from the great. Every elite athlete is crazy and I say that because you have to be crazy to risk it all.

"You have to be a little crazy to risk falling on your face in front of millions of people and that doesn't just go for track athletes, you can take it to Michael Jordan, Tom Brady at the Patriots, I could go on and on. Every great athlete has a little bit of crazy in them to achieve their goals."

That night in Moscow would mark the closing highlight in a blue riband career, with the then 36-year-old bowing out of competition after a quad injury cut her 'Road to Rio' short in 2016. Yet hanging up the spikes only stoked her enthusiasm for the track and she continues to invest her enthusiasm into the athletes at Missouri State University. 

14th IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 - Day Three

'Team Jet' and the future

Putting aside her inspirational achievements, working under Jeter's infectious influence must be a huge motivation for the cohort and she's determined to reach legendary status. "It's another piece of 'Team Jet,' I'm now the sprint and hurdles coach at Missouri, teaching my greatness to the next generation and trying to build the sport even more.

"I get to fulfil my passion, my purpose. You never want to do something that you don't love and when you're in the position to guide people and turn them down the right path, it needs to be from someone that has a passion and a love for what they're doing. One day I do want to be a legendary coach, I want to be in the Hall of Fame and it's going to start here at Missouri State."

A superlative career on the track is already finding its feet beside it. 

Jeter certainly hasn't experienced the smoothest journey to the top, almost quitting to join the police force, but it all culminated in performances that will stand the test of time and medals defined by sporting excellence. She might be the fastest woman alive but - in tune with the Olympic motto - she's also bringing the strength to raise her career higher after retirement.

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