‘Noah Lyles can be the next Usain Bolt’
US sprinter Carmelita Jeter wants one of her wards to break her personal best of 10.64secs, second fastest in historyUpdated: Oct 19, 2019 18:32 IST
From setting the track on fire to coaching youngsters at the Missouri State University, former sprinter Carmelita Jeter has been pacing various walks of life.
This time the American, who clocked the second fastest time for 100m ever (10.64) in 2009, is in India for the first time as the ambassador of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon on Sunday.
A former 100m and relay world champion, Jeter visited the HT office on Friday to relive the women’s 4x100m world record that brought USA gold at the 2012 London Olympics, and speak about the importance of good coaching, and what her plans are for the 2020 Olympics.
Watch | Sports Corner: In conversation with Carmelita Jeter
How did you get into running?
I was playing basketball and the coach said ‘Go out with the track team so you can stay in shape’. So it was only for me to stay in shape. Then I got out there and actually liked running.
I liked the sport so didn’t go back to basketball. In high school I knew I was good but college was when I really knew that ‘Okay you can do something with this’. That was my ‘Aha!’ moment, in my senior year.
What were the factors that helped you break the 11-second barrier?
The No 1 factor was the weight mode, building my strength, because when I was running 11.10, I was really skinny. I had muscle, butI was not powerful, so the No 1 thing that helped me really develop into the world class athlete that I am was lifting weights. It made a huge difference.
You worked with a coach who you’ve said really transformed you as an athlete. How important is the coach-athlete relationship?
The relationship is critical because there has to be trust and when there’s trust the athlete is willing to listen and do things you ask them to do. If I don’t believe in you then I’m not going to listen to you or do what you want me to. So a coach-athlete relationship can make or break your career. If you don’t have belief in them then you won’t believe in yourself. If you believe in a coach like I did in John Smith—whatever he told me to do on the track I did—then it pays off. It’s an amazing relationship once you get it. It is very unfortunate when great athletes don’t have a good relationship with their coaches. Then you don’t see them excel and do things that show how talented they are.
How much of a sprinter is born and how much is he/she made?
There are a lot of people who are gifted, naturally talented. They have two great parents who came together and you’re able to do amazing things. But I have also seen people with more heart beat talented people. Because you still have to work in order to reach the levels of your talent. We have all watched a cricket, soccer or basketball game and said this team should win and then the team that had no business winning, ends up winning. I always say, heart trumps talent.
Sports Corner: In conversation with Carmelita Jeter
How much do you know about Indian sprinters and what is your impression of them?
One thing that I’ve noticed is that there aren’t many Olympic runners in India. We have this young lady (Dutee Chand) who made it to the Olympics. She is doing amazing things but she needs help. If she had more help that would boost her confidence even more. If she had four other women running well then she could do amazing things. Confidence sometimes comes from your surroundings. Like the USA team, the runners are so confident because they know they have an Allyson (Felix), they knew they had a Carmelita, all these people that they could watch and say ‘If she could do it, I can do it’.
Dutee trains alone. If she had training partners who were at her level, then you’d have a training group. That’s what I mean by help. She needs people who say ‘I want to join her, I want to be a part of team India or the relay team’. If she’s walking into a stadium knowing that she has three other women with her, isn’t that more of a confidence (booster) than knowing she’s going to fight a battle by herself?
Many times that comes with bringing in a coach that the athletes would truly trust and respect. Someone that’s possibly coached someone huge.
Could you relive the women’s 4x100m world record (40.82 seconds) that won you the gold at 2012 Olympics?
Watching Tianna (Bartoletta) take off, I already knew we’d won, from the first leg. She was so powerful, jumped everybody and as I am watching the race, I am like, ‘Oh we’re really winning, oh it’s my turn!’ I turn around I get my stick and I can’t tell you what happened after that. I have absolutely no recollection of what happened but I knew that we broke the world record, I saw it 50m before I got to the finish line.
What are you more proud of, 10.64 seconds in 100m (the second fastest woman ever) or the 4x100m relay world record?
I’d have to say 10.64. It’s hard to choose because a relay means I had to put my ego and pride aside to work with three other women to make that happen. So that was a plus because we were four women who competed against each other.
You have to take that little chip on your shoulder and leave it in the car for a second. But my 10.64, that’s hard work. That was years of struggle, having to work multiple jobs to make money, a lot of sacrifice. It was important because I earned it.
Do you see track records being broken or have we reached a limit?
I definitely want records to break because when they do the sport builds, people pay attention. Delilah Muhammad broke the 400m record twice this year and it’s unfortunate that she didn’t get enough press and praise because that alone was an accomplishment—to come back and break your own world record—and she runs with such elegance. I love watching her compete. Records are supposed to be broken. That’s the good part. I want to coach somebody to break my record.
Is there someone who can do it right now?
With the right conditions a lot of people. Shelly-Ann has been running 10.70. But it’s difficult right now with the lack of meets (in the US). When I ran 10.6 we had so many races so I was very sharp. Now there are not as many meets as it used to be. Now in order to be sharp you’ve to train to be sharp in practice.
Dina Asher Smith has gradually come into her own. It wasn’t something that happened overnight, but took a couple of years. When something takes a couple of years, that person is a problem. Every year the confidence has grown. She didn’t just have a great year, all of a sudden at the top. She’s had failures, not made the podium and not made the final.
When I say she’s a problem I mean that in a good way for her because you have the Olympics next year and she just achieved two medals at the World Championships. When you earn it, it’s a little different, because it wasn’t given to you.
Do you see anyone reaching the heights of stardom like Usain Bolt did?
I believe that Noah Lyles has a personality similar to Usain. He plays around, dyes his hair, dances before and after the race. He’s a showman; that was the plus for Usain. He brought you a show. You not only came to see him run, you came to see him perform. He was a ringmaster. Lyles is on his way to that. Since he just won this medal (200m gold at 2019 World Championships) his confidence would be more.
Will you be at the Tokyo Olympics and who are you most excited to see there?
I hope to be coaching someone at the 2020 Olympics. I am only looking for whoever I’m coaching. I want to push and motivate my girls to want to go to that higher level to know that it’s doable. I am coaching at Missouri State University, a Division 1 school. But I went to Division 2. Who’d have thought a Division 2 girl could be fastest woman alive?
When I’m coaching my girls I want their mindset to be: ‘Who’d have thought that this girl who went to this small Division 1 school could make the Olympics’? So I am just trying to tweak it and feed my girls the confidence somebody fed me to do great things. I better be at 2020.