[INTERVIEW] Olympic Medalist Carmelita Jeter Looks Back On Career, Talks Helping Others Reach Goals
Southern California native, Carmelita Jeter, was crowned The Fastest Woman Alive, after beating previous records set by Marion Jones and Florence Griffith-Joyner. The track and field superstar, earned her degree in physical education from California State University. Jeter, is a recipient of the Los Angeles Sports Woman of the Year Award for her excellence, sportsmanship in performance and character, as well as the Jesse Owens Award, the highest accolade in the sport given to the outstanding US female track and field athlete.
Carmelita, a graduate from California State University with a degree in physical education, is now serving as a coach, motivational speaker, activist and philanthropist. The Olympic gold medalist talks to us about her career, the importance of motivation and what’s next for her.
“I love winning! When you’re a champion, you’re going to do what it takes to stay a champion. Sacrifice was apart of being number one in the world.”
Parlé Mag: Thank you for speaking with us today! Coming from a basketball oriented family, were you hesitant to try out for track at all?
Carmelita Jeter: I wouldn’t say I was hesitant. I just didn’t think that it was for me. I was kind of like “Ehh, I don’t wanna run no damn track.” But I went out there and I was fast. I’m on varsity, I’m a freshman-and that was huge. In my household, having a letterman jacket was a big deal. So knowing I was going to get my letter, my freshman year; I was really excited about that. Once I ran really well my freshman year, I just stuck to it and never went back to playing basketball in high school.
Parlé Mag: That awesome. Being named “The Fastest Woman Alive” is no doubt, an impressive title. At any point in your career did you think that you would hold such an honor?
Carmelita Jeter: You know what? I always speak everything into existence. And I always claimed to be the fastest, before it even happened. Even to this day, I still speak everything into existence. So when it happened, I was like “Oh, shoot!” But inside of myself, inside of my soul, I knew I was capable of doing that.”
Parlé Mag: Wow. I agree, though. I am definitely the same way. Speak it until you see it. That’s how you reach goals in life. What motivates you?
Carmelita Jeter: What motivates me, is seeing someone else do something amazing since I’m not actually on the track anymore. That’s what motivates me, when I see someone else do amazing things. When I can be a coach to someone or a mentor to someone and they do something great. It motivates me. That smile I get back. That smile is worth more than a dollar bill.
Parlé Mag: How do you keep yourself in check? In order to have this level of success and accumulate the accolades that you have, there has to be a level of discipline. When you were running, how did you maintain that level of discipline?
Carmelita Jeter: When you like winning, and you enjoy winning: you set your clock. When you like and enjoy winning, you make sure you do the things to keep that going. If you like to be a champion, well real champions know how to sacrifice. Real champions know how to get jobs done and when to quit certain things. Real champions know these things. So, I love winning! When you’re a champion, you’re going to do what it takes to stay a champion. Sacrifice was a part of being number one in the world. You have to sacrifice. Nobody was gonna give it to you. Nobody was gonna say: “Oh you wanna win, there you go.” You definitely have to sacrifice everything to make it happen.”
Parlé Mag: I agree completely. Between your collegiate championships as well as international and domestic championships, is there any of them that meant the most to you? Or were they all a “I met this goal, on to the next one” kind of thing?
Carmelita Jeter: You know what? I was a goal setter. The one thing I regret and something I tell the athletes I mentor now: when you achieve a goal, you gotta stop and enjoy it. I didn’t enjoy goals. I would smash it and go to the next one. Smash it and go to the next one. I would never have that “enjoyment moment”, I would just keep going. I always tell people now, you got to stop, give yourself a pat on the back. Tell yourself, “Hey girl, you just did that!” Or “Hey guy, you just did that. You just handled that.” That’s one thing I regret, out of my career. I didn’t celebrate myself enough.
Parlé Mag: Celebrating yourself is so important because if you don’t, no one else will. Especially when you’re reaching milestones and making history. When you became a 3 time Olympic medalist, what was that day like?
Carmelita Jeter: It was a big day! Going to the Olympics, as an athlete, that’s what you want. That’s where you want to be, to be an Olympian! Getting the medals was the feeling of: I made it. Yes, I was already The Fastest Woman Alive, but you don’t have real credentials until you get those Olympic medals!
Parlé Mag: I hear you! I can’t even imagine the excitement of being there as a spectator let alone competing. With all that you have achieved, what made you want to retire from running to become a coach and motivational speaker?
Carmelita Jeter: Well, I could have been so many other things in life. I could have been in jail. I could have been with a bunch of babies. I could have been all of these things. However, I was fortunate to have someone save my life. I was fortunate to have someone speak greatness into me. And so, my role now is to do the exact same thing now, to someone else. To speak greatness into them and to explain to them what their worth is so that they will know what they’re worth. A lot of our young girls; and our young guys are not being motivated in the right direction. Shoot, I’m the fastest woman alive because someone took the time to speak greatness into me. That’s why I like mentoring, that’s why I like coaching.
Parlé Mag: Would you say that’s your favorite part about coaching?
Carmelita Jeter: My favorite part about coaching is taking someone who didn’t believe they were great and showing them how great they are.
Parlé Mag: In reading your bio and looking through your social media, I can definitely say that you are an inspiration. Not just to African Americans but to women, men, and athletes alike. With that in mind, what is one word or phrase you want people to associate with your name?
Carmelita Jeter: Fearless.
Parlé Mag: I can see that.
Carmelita Jeter: I have always been fearless. I’ve always been on the front line. I’ve always been the person to pick up the slack and take charge. Fearless, that’s me.
Parlé Mag: Do you have any advice for aspiring athletes?
Carmelita Jeter: My only advice is don’t let anyone take your joy from you.
Parlé Mag: That can be applied in every area of our lives, no matter what profession or goal we’re striving towards. What’s next for you? Anything else you want to share with our audience?
Carmelita Jeter: Well, what’s next for me is that now I’m a mentor, coach and a manager. I manage athletes in track and field. I’m coaching some professional athletes. I just hooked up with Michelle Sproles; (her husband Darren Sproles plays for Philadelphia Eagles); she’s a breast cancer survivor. I’m an activist for breast cancer. She has a hair line, The Pink Hair Line. We just did a campaign that’s going to drop at the end of February called Sweat and Slay.
Parlé Mag: Oh wow, tell me more about Sweat and Slay.
Carmelita Jeter: It’s about motivating women to work out. It’s about motivating women and letting them know that you can work out, sweat and still be the BOMB! You can still sweat and be sexy. You can still sweat and look amazing. It’s just about fitness and being healthy and educating a lot of women; a lot of African American women, about breast cancer and that it can come at any age. Michelle Sproles is a survivor, but she was diagnosed at the age of 27, breast cancer has no age limit.
Parlé Mag: No, it doesn’t. That’s a tremendous and notable effort you guys have partnered to bring into fruition that will undoubtedly, benefit and education a lot of people.
Carmelita Jeter: Oh! I’m also in the process of writing a book. I can’t wait, “The Life of Carmelita Jeter” All things that people don’t know about me and how I became The Fastest Woman Alive-the stuff I never told. I am very, very,very excited about that.
Parlé Mag: Do you have a release date, yet?
Carmelita Jeter: No, not yet. I will also be commentating the upcoming USA indoor track and field championship in New Mexico.
Parlé Mag: Wow! That amazing. Have you commentated an event before?
Carmelita Jeter: This will be my first commentating gig and I am very excited about it because I’ve been trying [to commentate] but no one has given me the opportunity. I’m glad that United States Track and Field believes in me enough to allow me to do it. I’m definitely going to SMASH IT!
Parlé Mag: Yeah, for sure, of course you are! Speak it. Congratulations on reaching that goal in your career.
Carmelita Jeter: Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. So you know, I’ve got some good things going on right now.
Parlé Mag: Yes, you do. We wish you continued success and we look forward to witnessing all these amazing things you have in store.
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