US sprint queen Carmelita Jeter: Indian athletes are getting better

In India as the international event ambassador of the 2019 Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, the American sprint queen sheds light on her track exploits.

She’s the fastest woman alive. Her timing of 10.64 seconds in the 100m dash at the 2009 Shanghai Golden Grand Prix is 0.07 seconds better than Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s gold-winning time (10.71 seconds) at the recently concluded IAAF World Athletics Championships. That’s probably enough reason for you to listen when Carmelita Jeter speaks.

The American sprint great, who is in India as the international event ambassador of the 2019 Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, spoke exclusively to the Olympic Channel discussing the American approach to sports, her world record feat at London 2012, and why the 2013 Moscow Worlds bronze will be her favourite medal. She also had some encouraging words for India’s track and field athletes.

Excerpts...

What makes the USA a successful sporting nation? What lessons can a country like India take from it?

I believe one of the pluses for the USA is they put more money into certain programmes. They have several groups that you can run with (while) growing up as a kid. I believe that’s one of the things that help with the sports in the US - just the backing. With the association backing the athletes and funding them. It’s not cheap to play sports. So, when you have backing, it’s a lot easier to move forward.

For India, we have got to back the athletes. You have to be willing to put money behind them. Put not only money but also let them know that you do care. That you appreciate, and you want them to succeed. Many times, I tell people, ‘It’s not only about the money. It’s knowing someone’s actually rooting for you’.

Carmelita Jeter is in India as the international event ambassador of the 2019 Airtel Delhi Half Marathon. Image courtesy: ADHM 2019
Carmelita Jeter is in India as the international event ambassador of the 2019 Airtel Delhi Half Marathon. Image courtesy: ADHM 2019Carmelita Jeter is in India as the international event ambassador of the 2019 Airtel Delhi Half Marathon. Image courtesy: ADHM 2019

Your thoughts on the Indian track and field athletes...

I would definitely say that as years have progressed, I have noticed that they have performed much better on the world stage. That being said, everything’s a brick-by-brick process. Nothing truly happens overnight. But watching them step up the ladder every year is definitely an accomplishment. I would tell them to keep pushing for their dreams. To keep motivating themselves. Keep pushing themselves and keep allowing people to cheer for them.

Let’s talk about your 4x100m relay world record at the 2012 London Olympics. What went right for the quartet on that day?

The one thing that clicked for the American team at London 2012 was chemistry and trust. Many times, people think that you are putting the top four people on track and that’s going to get you a win. That’s not necessarily true. You have to put four people on the track who know their roles, play their positions and understand that it’s going to take all four to get the job done.

The world record and the world championships titles aside, we saw another side to Carmelita Jeter at the 2013 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Moscow...

Winning that medal (a bronze in the 100m) in 2013 with a torn quadricep, I tell people that is my favourite medal. And when people ask me why it’s because that’s the medal that I had to dig deep for. Nothing was going right. I had a torn quad, I was not able to compete on the level I wanted to.

I tell people this thing right here (points to her head) has to be stronger than everything else. If you are weak-minded, you will never succeed. If you are weak-minded, it’s going to be very hard for you to get the job done. So, when you have to go into your mind, it should be the mindset of ‘never give up and always fight’. That’s why 2013 Moscow was my favourite medal. I did not give up.

Allyson Felix has been the talk of the town post her World Championships heroics. How do you remember your fellow compatriot?

She’s an amazing woman! She is an amazing black woman! She’s educated, she is married, she just had her first child and to have the medal count that she has lets you know that it’s a God-given talent that she received. But it also shows her will to be great. She used her mindset to become such a powerful force.

Being that, she almost lost her life having that child, for her to come back and do what she did it made me look at her even more differently. It made me respect her a lot more just knowing that she could have said ‘I am done. But she said no not yet.

With less than a year to go for Tokyo 2020, what are your sprint predictions?

You know, I tell people you can’t predict (races) because everything changes with the workout when someone gets dinged up. Then they are not themselves. I can’t predict it yet. I pretty much have to wait and see who makes the team. That’s when you can say, ‘Oh, this person might get it done’. 

It’s all about making the team. And making the USA team is one of the hardest! So when you make it into the USA Olympic team, there’s a good chance that you can be in that final.

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