Jeter: Fastest Women Alive

Carmelita Jeter bears the burden of being the fastest woman alive

Anna Kessel,
Saturday 20 February 2010

The fastest woman alive stirs four sachets of sugar into her breakfast grits and dips three hash browns into a pool of ketchup: a veritable champion’s breakfast. At 30 years old Carmelita Jeter has yet to win a world title or an Olympic medal, but when she twice dipped into 10.6-seconds territory running the 100m in September her name became famous the world over.

Last year the Los Angeles-born sprinter ran 10.67sec in Thessaloniki, and then 10.64 in Shanghai – the latter making her the second-fastest female 100m sprinter in history, behind Florence Griffith- Joyner, who ran 10.49 before the introduction of mandatory random drug testing.

That day in China, Jeter stole some of Usain Bolt’s limelight, something no female sprinter has managed since his world-record-breaking performances. It also made up for finishing third at the World Championships last summer.

Jeter, “the Jet”, smiles at the memory. This afternoon, at the Birmingham Grand Prix, she hopes to add a fast 60m indoor time to her CV; the achievements make up for years of injury. “Oh gosh that was the worst,” she says, rolling her eyes. “It made me want to quit. I pulled my hamstring after the 2004 Olympic trials and I was literally laying on the track crying.” A year of rehabilitation followed – “I was having deep-tissue massage twice a week for months” – but it was not until 2007 that Jeter regained her form, winning bronze in the 100m at the World Championships.

Even then the road has not been smooth. “I ran so well in 2007 I kind of got a big head, you know? My 2008 was not good. I was thinking I was guaranteed to make the US [Olympic] team and then I didn’t and I got a reality check. But that was the best thing that could have happened to me. I came back in 2009 and I was just so hungry, I never wanted to be beaten again. I never wanted to have that feeling of being left behind again. That hurt.”

Jeter changed coach at the end of 2008 and began working with John Smith, best known for coaching Maurice Greene to multiple world and Olympic titles. It was Smith who, she says, “literally ripped my race apart and put it back together again”. At the beginning of last season he predicted Jeter would run 10.6, when her previous best was 10.97. She did not believe him. “I was just looking at him like, ‘What is he talking about?’ But I went to Shanghai and ran 10.64 and I was like, ‘OK this guy knows what he’s talking about.’”

Jeter speaks with a southern drawl – “Everybody is like, ‘Where are you from?’ I’m like, LA!” she laughs. It’s not the only assumption made about her. Being the fastest woman alive in a discipline so tainted by drugs invites a measure of scepticism and Jeter coolly pre-empts the inevitable questions about doping. “I got so much negative press after I ran 10.64 like, ‘Is she clean? Is she this? Is she that?’”. She is realistic enough to concede that running faster than the convicted drugs cheat Marion Jones and closest to Griffith-Joyner is going to raise eyebrows – perhaps even among fellow competitors. After the Beijing Olympics the Jamaican Veronica Campbell said even 10.6 was out of reach. “How many have even run 10.6 in the past 20 years since Flo Jo set that record?” she asked. The answer, before Jeter did so, was only the disgraced Jones.

“You know that’s honestly the first thing I heard after that race,” says Jeter now. “It was like ‘Well she’s faster than Marion and a little slower than Flo-Jo, hmm.’” She purses her lips. “I look at it like this, I surround myself with people that care about me. They know I’m going to practise every day, that I’m in the weight room every day, that I’m working my butt off. The other people I don’t have time for. You can whisper under your breath all you want but I don’t give an s-h-i-t. It’s unfortunate that I work this hard and I don’t get the credit I should get but that’s life.”

Being thick-skinned is her only option. In the online forums, speculation over her improved performances – prior to 2008 she had not run below 11 seconds – is rife, with bloggers comparing before and after photos of her musculature. The comments are hurtful. “My grandmother called me one day, crying. She watched one of my races on YouTube and she read the comments underneath it. She said, ‘Why are these people calling you this and that?’ I was like, ‘Grandma stop reading the comments please’. She was very emotional, she was a mess. I had to calm her down. That day was the worst, she had me crying.”

But from her family she gains her strength. "My dad always says when people stop talking about you that’s when you’re not doing nothing. In 2008 I wasn’t running good and there was nobody talking about me. When you start running well everybody will talk about you. Good and bad your name’s in somebody’s mouth, so I’m like, ‘Hey, keep my name in your mouth!’ When you stop talking about me that’s when I’m going to worry.

“I can’t be upset about those questions because we have a person who everybody adored for years and then she got caught in a scandal [Jones]. Then we have another person who everybody adored but there’s a lot of, ‘he said, she said’ about them [Flo-Jo]. I mean I understand that I’m in the middle of them. But there’s nothing I can do about it. What do you want me to do? Run slow?”

She laughs. As she lines up for the 60m sprint in Birmingham this afternoon, nothing will be further from her mind. There is still the US team to make for next month’s World Indoor Championships, and then the fastest indoor performer of the year to beat in the Virgin Islands’ LaVerne Jones-Ferrette. She scrapes up the last of her grits and smiles. “These next four years are going to be big for me,” she says. “I can just feel it.”

I just want to know, how did she hop and skip over to Smith? I got brazen one day and called HSI when I lived in Cali and EH told me I was not fast enough. Also, I was told by another coach (in cali) who trained a guy to go 9.8 that HSI charges like 1-2k a month just to train with them. So obviously if you don’t have any money to pay a top coach, or you’re not fast enough, how do you get to the next leval? This is the conundrum I’m trying to crack. How do you break through from training on your own, to training with a world class coach FULL TIME!?

Regardless, I wish the best for her and I think it’s so cool that she is 30 years old and kicking major @@@!

Shoe companies have deals with a lot of coaches whereby they send athletes there (sometimes even require their athletes to train with one of their coaches). Bob Kersee/John Smith/some of the distance coaches like Salazar are among coaches Nike, for example, sends their athletes to.

You can also bet that if there is someone they feel is talented, certain fees are/would be waived (for at least a period of time) to get them as part of the camp.

That makes sense. Fog is my go to guy now!!!

Several of the big name coaches in the US are charging around $12,000 a year for coaching fees per athlete. If it’s “only” that much, then that’s about the equivalent for entry level to a top private high school. I know we paid $20,000 for my son’s final year at a private high school, but it seems too often you get only what you pay for.

World class coach = $12,000 year

4 hrs/day x 5 days/week x 49 weeks = 980 hours

That’s $12 an hour!

I know lkh use to train with John Smith, I’m sure he wasn’t paying 1-2k per month.

multiple 10 athletes and you get $120,000 per year as a basic fees…

Remember that’s before the Taxman takes his slice - unless the coach fails to declare in which case s/he is taking a big risk

Yeah, I know they make up the low hourly rate with athlete volume but it’s still an incredible deal. Even a rookie personal trainer at the corner gym has rates at least triple that.

1k/month is a steal for a John Smith level coach. However to college athletes who get everything for free it probably seems like $1,000,000.

You guys are great, thanks for clearing this up for me.

I have a homeboy that trained with hsi for a while back in the hey day with mo, ato, and willie gault was there. He got to train for free. Some who he lucked up and met b bonds at that tractk training. Bonds liked him (or felt sorry for him) and hooked him up with smith. Smith allowed him to train with them as long as he didnt get in the way. Smith didnt really coach him he just let him tag along for free.