Carmelita Jeter is a track and field sensation and champion dominating the 100m races and earning her self a gold medal as The Fastest Woman Alive. She also happens to be a recipient of the Los Angeles Sportswoman of the Year Award for her amazing sportsmanship on the track and in her character as a team player as well as receiving the Jesse Owens Award which is the highest award for a US female in track and field.
With her heart of gold, Carmelita gives back to the community. She launched her first TEAM JET track and field clinic, teaching kids about the importance of health and fitness while helping them harness their track skills to the best of their abilities.
TUC had the pleasure to speak to her on how she pursued track, her trials as an Olympian, and what else is in store for her career.
Breanna: Out of all the sports you played, how did you reach the decision to pursue a career in track?
Carmelita: I played basketball. I was a bit of a tomboy. I played football in the streets. Track came because the high school coach could see I was very quick on the court, and so in the ninth grade he said, “Why don’t you go out for the track team in the off season to stay in shape?” Because basketball was in the fall and track was in the spring. I went out to stay in shape and ended up doing really well and never went back to playing basketball. I played at the house or at things like that, but I never played again in high school.
Breanna: You also ran track in college and obviously went on to become professional. What was that transition like for you?
Carmelita: It was very different. I tell people all the time that I didn’t have the yellow brick road life for track and field. Usually, athletes that sign out of college, they usually go to big schools, Division One schools. They usually sign right after school is done or maybe right before school is done. I went to a Division Two school, and it was a smaller school, and you didn’t run at big meets. In college I ran 11-3, and 11-3 is good but it’s not great, when the girls at Division One schools are running 11-1’s or 11-0’s, so that already put me behind the eight ball. Leaving Cal State Dominguez Hills … In 2004, I was the first athlete at Cal State Dominguez Hills to run at the Olympic trials. I ran at the Olympic trials at Sacramento in 2004, and I’m still in college, but I’m seeing these women, they’re professionals, they have their agents, they have their physios, and I’m like oh my God, this is so what I want to do, but you know, real life hits you, right? Real life is like, “Well, boo, you need a job,” so I go out to join the LAPD, because I graduated, but I don’t have a contract, so I need a job. I go back to my high school and I start coaching there as the high school track and field coach, and then I’m like, okay, so I need to get a job, because I’m the high school track and field coach, I am the assistant athletic director, I am the cheer coach and I’ve never been a cheerleader in my life, and I was the assistant activities director. I had all these jobs, because of course the principal was trying to make it worth my while to be there. I’m still training, though, I’m still training really early in the morning, and I’m still going to work all day, and I just decide, okay, I’m just going to be a police officer. I go do all the paperwork for the LAPD. I’m sitting in front of three detectives, three black women, and she’d ask me questions, and she said, “I can’t hire you. You’re perfect, but I can’t hire you.” I’m looking at her like, “What? What are you talking about, you can’t hire me, I’m perfect?” And she says, “Because when you talk about track and field, you light up. You talk about track and field, it comes from love.” She says, “I’ll do this. I promise you this. Go back out, try it again. If it doesn’t work, I’ll put you in the academy on the spot’. I did just that. I went back out. I gave it 239% of my soul, and I ended up getting a contract the next year with Nike, and I made my first world championship team, so I always tell people, I just didn’t fall out of the sky and start running fast. I had to work for this.
Carmelita: It was very overwhelming, because like you said, it’s such a high accomplishment in track and field or in any sport. Having an Olympic medal speaks volumes, and I was a little overwhelmed that year, being the fact that I lost my aunt to breast cancer, and I didn’t even want to run, so there was a lot of emotions that went into 2012, but then there was a lot of, you know, so very happy with myself that I accomplished something so big, that I’m doing three events at the Olympic games. You know, who can say that ? Then I came home with three medals and a world record in the same games. It was definitely the highlight of my career. When I tell people it was just the highlight of my hard work, it was just the highlight of my sacrifice, it was the highlight of my struggle, it was the highlight of, you know, losing my aunt. It was just … It was the top of the mountain for me in my track career.
Breanna: How did you physically prepare for the Olympics? Were there foods that you used for fuel, and ones that you avoided?
Carmelita: Physically, I trained like a monster. I just trained as hard as I possibly could. I would eat very well. I had NutriFit. They were cooking for me at the time. They would drop meals off at the door every morning so I was eating very clean. I was drinking lots of Aqua Hydrate water, and I was doing protein. At that time I was doing muscle milk protein, and just staying on top of my body. I had a physio by the name of Craig Dodson, who’s actually a chiropractor. He traveled with me everywhere, so I had him working on me twice a week. I also had another guy that was a massage person. He worked on me about three times a month. His name was Robert Torres. I kept my body in line. It just wasn’t one thing that kept me going. It was all of those things. All of those things played a big part. Then I wasn’t hanging out. I was in the house. I was sleeping. I was resting. I was eating right. You have to be accountable for everything. When you’re doing too much, your body’s tired, your body’s exhausted, and I was able to sit down and make it work.
Breanna: Are there female athletes that inspire you as well as yourself?
Carmelita: I love how people, well, female athletes are just out there being great and amazing, like breaking the barriers, doing rugby and tennis and dominating the sport. I’m impressed with all women that are dominating. There’s not one particular person. They’re all dominating. What I like about it is they’re showing young girls strong is beautiful. It’s okay to be strong, it’s okay to be powerful, it’s okay to be fierce. It’s okay, and so many times people think if they’re too buff and they’re big, it’s not attractive, it’s not cute. Like, what are you talking about? That is beautiful.
Breanna: When you’re working out, what songs are on your playlist?
Carmelita: When I’m working out, it matters on my mood. I’m a mood person. I can go from Tupac to Dr. Dre to Snoop Dog, because I’m an LA girl, to YG, and then I can switch it up from Mary J. Blige to Aaliyah to No Doubt to Red Hot Chili Peppers. I don’t have it where I have to stay in a certain zone. Whatever my thoughts are that day, that’s what gets played, from Jay-Z to Beyoncé, and then I might throw some real old-school old school in there, throw on some Aretha Franklin or someone. It just matters how I feel, what mood I want to be in.
Breanna: As the fastest woman alive, you definitely need a pair of nice sneakers. What are some of your favorite running shoes?
Carmelita: You know what’s crazy is I would rather throw some heels on than throw some tennis shoes on. I’m just keeping it real with you, but when I do throw tennis shoes on, even though I was a Nike athlete for so many years, my go-to tennis shoe was all-white Converse. It’s a classic, and you know what, you can wear it with a v-neck, some jeans, throw some cute socks on, show your socks off. Of course I love my Air Maxes. I love Jordan’s. I love that I can wear Yeezy’s now, because I’m not in a contract with Nike. But ,my go-to are some all-white fresh $25 Converse.
Breanna: What has been your most memorable moment as a track star?
Carmelita: My most memorable moment, 2013, I tore my quad. I’m in Moscow. I’m the reigning champion in the hundred meters. Everyone’s saying I shouldn’t run. I run anyway, and I get a bronze medal on one leg. It’s the most memorable because that was all my heart, because my body was not there. It was my mind and it was my heart. I tell people all the time, heart beats talent all day every day. A lot of those women on the line that day were definitely more fit than me, definitely capable of beating me, and I still took third, and I took third because my heart is huge and my mind is a savage.
Breanna: Back in 2014, you also launched the Team Jet Track and Field Clinic for children in the community. What was the inspiration for that?
Carmelita: The inspiration was just me growing up without a real role model that you could touch, that you could see. I guess we watched people on television, the Charles Barkley, the Michael Jordans, the stars, you know, the women in the WNBA, and I never got a chance to meet these people. I never got a chance to see people in real life and touch them and hear them talk and hear them say something inspirational to me, so my whole purpose of always giving back is, okay, if you can see me in real life and can touch me and you can look at my medals and you can listen to me tell you that school’s important and you can be great and it doesn’t matter where you come from, it just matters where you finish. That’s the whole purpose of this Team Jet Clinic, it was so people could touch the fastest woman alive in real life.
Carmelita: The number one thing I always say is you can’t balance it. One has to overcome the other, and one will overcome the other, and you have to decide which one is more important, and school should always be important. It should always be first, because no matter how good you are in the sport, if you don’t pass the SAT or you don’t have a certain GPA, you won’t be running anywhere. You won’t be playing anywhere, and you’ll be at a junior college, and not that there’s anything wrong with a junior college, but why not go to a four-year college straight ahead, right away? Why take the bus stop first and then go to where you really want to go? Why not go there first? I always say that it’s definitely hard to balance. One’s going to always trump the other, but I would rather school trump athletics. I mean, if you’re good, you’re going to be good regardless.
Breanna: What else can we expect from you?
Carmelita: Well, it’s crazy, because right now I’m doing so many things. That’s probably why I have a cold right now, and just sit my little bony tail down somewhere, but I’m the manager for Children’s Sports Athletics, so I’m managing sprinters and hurdlers right now, so come January I’ll be on the move doing indoor season with them. I’m also coaching two professional athletes. It just kind of happened that way. It’s not planned. I’ve been running away from coaching to be honest, and it keeps biting me in the butt, like, “Come back here.”I’m coaching an athlete who just graduated from USC named Destiny Brown. I’m pretty excited about that, because I know I can coach. I coached at Cal State Dominguez Hills last year. I did very well, and you know, it’s just in my heart to see people be great, so I’m doing that as well.
Carmelita: I’m also in the process of writing my first book. I’m really excited about that. It’s going to talk about everything about Carmelita, not just track and field alone. I’m doing more track clinics where, about a month ago it was the classroom setting with coaches, and teaching them how to be better coaches. I have my clinic happening. I have my book. I have coaching. I have Total Sports where I’m the manager, so I’m pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty busy. One of my goals is just to be on like some type of TV series, so that’s one thing I really want to happen for 2018.
Breanna: What does True Urban Culture mean to you?
Carmelita: When I think of urban culture, I do think of hip-hop, I do think of Brown Sugar, the movie. I do think of Love Jones. I do think of all these things when I think of urban culture. I think of Soul Food, the movie. I think of some of the Tyler Perry movies, and I think of a lifestyle of family. I think of a lifestyle of music. I think of a lifestyle of eating soul food, when I think of urban culture. I think of certain style of fashion , when I think of urban culture, I think of a community, a lifestyle. Honestly, when I think of Urban Culture, I think of my family and I also think of love and a culture of love.