Daegu, KoreaMoments after crossing the finish line Carmelita Jeter stared at the Daegu Stadium scoreboard screen in disbelief. Having previously finished third in two consecutive World Championship 100m finals she had finally achieved the ultimate prize and as the news sunk in she was overwhelmed.
The 31 year old from Gardena, California, kneeled on the track and cried tears of joy. The obligatory victory lap - complete with an American flag draped across her shoulders - followed while the crowd voiced their approval.
In her wake she had left the pair of Jamaican sprinters Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce who led from the start and very nearly stole the race, and the hard charging veteran Veronica Campbell-Brown beaten. Fraser-Pryce would be edged out of the medals by Kelly-Anne Baptiste of Trinidad & Tobago. Indeed it was one of the more exciting dashes in some time.
“I didn’t know I had it until the camera was on me because it was so close,” Jeter said “Then, when they put it on me, I said ‘oh, my gosh, I did it. I have been dreaming of this since 2009 when I got the bronze in Berlin.”
After parading through an endless line of television interviews she made her way into the media mixed zone where she caught sight of her agent, Chris Layne, and the man whom she credits most with her success, coach John Smith. As she hugged and cried with Smith in plain view of a crush of reporters, Jason Richardson the hurdles gold medalist wrapped his arms around the pair. There were more tears.
“You know I can’t even celebrate now because I have the 200m still,” she finally said. “That was my celebration just now when my coach and I were hugging and crying. John Smith is a great coach.
“I am very proud of my training partner (Richardson). He came to practice with me every day. We would have these sessions where we would say 'What is John Smith doing? What are we doing? We don’t need to be doing this.’ Then we would come back again the next day. We both had our battles so I am so proud of him. Our chemistry and hard work paid off.”
Jeter has a reputation for being extremely disciplined allowing nothing to detract from her athletic pursuits.
“She goes to bed at 8 o’clock and gets up at 6 am.,” says Layne. “Put it this way, she doesn’t goof off during the season like so many others do. She eats, sleeps, breathes this job. She looks at this as her job.”
Layne claims that if she has outside interests he doesn’t know about them claiming she has no time for anything but being a professional athlete. Even so, there were the usual nervous jitters as she warmed up for the final. The fact she is the second fastest woman of all time thanks to a 10.64 personal best recorded in Shanghai two years ago never entered her mind. The task at hand was to tackle the Caribbean force that has dominated major championships the past three years. That’s where John Smith was so influential.
“You know, I have a great coach,” she declares with a broad smile. “He stopped me before I went in the call room and he gave me a speech. And I knew when he gave me that speech I knew I was ready. It was a different night, he basically just said I have been working too hard to throw it away and I am a warrior and have got to go out there and fight for it because nobody is going to give it to me.”
Jeter attended The University at California State Dominguez from 2003 - 2007 before joining up with Smith. Articulate and wise, she is careful about spending the money she earns, according to her agent. She owns her own home in Los Angeles. Though she enjoys the occasional shopping trip she restricts herself to post season excursions. And it is clear when talking with her she is respectful of the support she has received from family, friends and coaches.
“I was running for everybody,” she declares. “I have so many people who have so much support for me, so much love for me. I didn’t want to let them down. So many people who put in the work with me. Coach Karon (Conwright) who is at the gym at 7:30 in the morning with us, John Smith who will change his day if you want to go earlier, or will change anything to make sure you can get those workouts in.
“We have a relationship that just doesn’t stop on the track. When we get off the track it’s birthdays, it’s Christmas, it’s Thanksgiving. We’re a family. That’s what makes it so good. We don't stop talking. I probably talk to that man (Smith) more than anybody. I talk to him on the phone at night, in the morning, it doesn’t matter. We have a great relationship, a great chemistry.”
The victory celebration may be on hold but, if she comes out as focused in the 200m as she was for the short dash, there may well be more for this family to celebrate come the weekend. Jeter can’t wait.
Paul Gains for the IAAF