Carmelita: 'Willingness to sacrifice important for a champion'

Carmelita Jeter, who won a gold, silver, and a bronze at the 2012 Olympics, is in India as brand ambassador of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon.

Carmelita Jeter, 2012 London Olympic games medalist and International event Ambassador of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, at Le Meridien Hotel on Thursday.   -  Shiv Kumar Pushkpakar

Carmelita Jeter wants to drape herself in a saree and hop on to an auto rickshaw when she explores the Capital city of “fascinating” India. The celebrated sprinter had aspired to be a “Navy SEAL” if not a “detective” and now, after a successful career, loves to coach young girls back home in Missouri.

The 39-year-old, who won a gold, silver, and a bronze at the 2012 London Olympics, is here as brand ambassador of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon to be held on October 20. She shared her views with Sportstar.

Why is running becoming so popular?

I think it's amazing that more people are running and getting fit. More people are gaining their confidence to join marathons and getting healthy.

How much do you know about Indian athletics?

Well, you guys have that young lady (Dutee Chand) and what she has achieved is pretty exciting. New things are developing. This Delhi marathon has over 40,000 participants and it shows that Indian athletes are inspiring the average person.

What does it take to become a world champion?

You have to be fearless. I tell people you have to set goals and you can't be afraid of consequences of failing.

One moment from the recent World Championships in Doha...

The facilities were amazing. The athletes were well taken care of in the heat. The number one stand out event for me was the triple jump watching Christian Taylor.

“We can always talk about what we want but it's actually another thing to seek it out everyday. Everyday I just trained really really hard and pushed myself. Even on the days when I didn’t want to step out I used to self talk that they don't give up. So getting a World Championship and an Olympic medal wasn't easy. You have to be truly willing to sacrifice.”

Do you think heat was the main factor for the dip in performances at Doha?

I am a sprinter, so heat always helps, but when you are on that level, it can be draining, it can be 38 degrees Celsius. So it doesn't matter. If you are ready you are ready. It's the same for everybody.

Recently, we saw Christian Coleman winning the 100m and Allyson Felix breaking Usain Bolt’s record for most World Championships medals. How does US keep producing so many world champions?

One of the pluses is that USATF (USA Track&Field) and USOC (US Olympic and Paralympic Committee) really back their athletes with funding, providing better coaches and medical facilities. They can go to USOC and get worked on, get x-rays to see if there is something wrong in the body. They are all doing pretty well putting money into the athletes.

In the last three Olympics we saw so many Jamaicans as champions – Usain Bolt, Fraser Pryce, Elaine Thompson and Omar McLeod to name a few. How does Jamaica excel consistently?

I believe Jamaica has always been a force and it just didn't happen last year. We can go back to Merlene Ottey. We can take it back to 15-20 years. There was always that Jamaica-US (competition). I won't say rivalry. I would say it's amazing for the sport. You know two countries going head to head in the sprint events.

What went through your mind when you won the 4x100m relay at the 2012 London Olympics with a world record?

To get the baton in the zone. I was running really fast. Had I taken off she (Bianca Knight) would not have been able to catch me. We were literally right in the zone when she handed over the baton. If I would have taken three more steps she wouldn’t have handed over to me. I pointed at the baton that we were going to win. You don't have to talk back, you just have to show it.

What do you know about India?

This is my first trip to India. I am not a spicy food eater and I have been telling everyone not spicy, not spicy. I have not been able to do sightseeing as I have just landed early morning. I loved watching the three-wheel thing (auto-rickshaws). They are really cute. I was afraid would they turn over. When I landed I was really surprised to see so many people waiting for their families to come in at 3'0 clock in the morning. I got to know that when one person flies in everybody comes to pick (him/her) up. So I can definitely see that India has a sense of family. Family is very big here. I am excited to learn new and different things here. I would love to see the Taj Mahal but I want to ride the auto rickshaw.

Being an ambassador for ADHM what is the message you would like to give?

It’s a universal message. You don't have to a sprinter or a marathon runner at the end of the day. The mindset should be to never give up and go beyond. It means what your body can actually do. Going to the next level and don't give up.

What is the importance of winning a World Championships gold and an Olympic gold? How do you prepare for it mentally?

Mentally, I want to practice everyday that I want it. We can always talk about what we want but it's actually another thing to seek it out everyday. Everyday I just trained really really hard and pushed myself. Even on the days when I didn’t want to step out I used to self talk that they don't give up. So getting a World Championship and an Olympic medal wasn't easy. You have to be truly willing to sacrifice.

What kind of sacrifice?

I can say in order to get to that level you have to be willing to sacrifice. Maybe you have to move to another place for a new coach. You can't live with your family or hang out with your friends. It's okay to get big and strong in the weight room. It's all about sacrifice.

“I love coaching. They say when you are done doing what you love you have to do something else. I love getting people to truly believe in themselves. It's a great feeling to know you are changing someone's life. Someone is listening to you and then going out and doing it.”

What went through your mind when you were injured?

When you are injured you are sad and depressed. You have this feeling that you won’t be able to get up again. You have to make sure that people around you are great cheerleaders because that is what you are going to need.

Is running about joy or punishing your body?

It's both actually. You definitely punish your body when you are competing and training at that level. You are putting your body through strain.

What makes a good athlete?

I would say you have to start first. Start doing something, not necessarily doing the sport that you want to do at that time. I played several sports until I decided which one I wanted to do. I didn't start running on track until I was 14 years. You have to start somewhere. Once you start you need to decide which one makes you happy.

Do you think athletics in general hasn't got the dues when compared to other sports like tennis ,football in popularity and prize money. In terms of women's events being held in big manner.

I believe track and field is not rising as it should still be. We have got into a decline in visibility on television which causes kids not to see the sport as much. There is definitely some decline in being able to see it. When you compare basketball, tennis and baseball, you have to remember that these sports are being publicised a little more. So if track and field could be publicised much more it will grow.

Your most unforgettable moment ever?

Graduating from college. It was a super big deal as I was the first one from my family to graduate from college. It was very exciting to watch my parents scream for me. It was one of my biggest accomplishments. I graduated with a Kinesiology degree. I have an honorary doctorate and I am graduating with masters in May in sports management.

If not an athlete what would you have been?

I would either have been a detective or in military. I always wanted to be a Navy SEAL.

As a speed coach and a motivational speaker, what do you tell your students?

I love coaching. They say when you are done doing what you love you have to do something else. I love getting people to truly believe in themselves. It's a great feeling to know you are changing someone's life. Someone is listening to you and then going out and doing it.