Carmelita Jeter is one of many high-profile athletes who is emphasizing cancer prevention with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation. On March 24, 2012, Jeter will participate in that organization’s 16th annual Race for the Cure on the Dodger Stadium parking lot. Last month, she attended the grand opening of “Pink,” the first-ever pop-up store at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, in recognition of “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” This partnership is in answer to the shopping center’s newly developed “BHCP [Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza] Cares” community relations program and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Los Angeles County Affiliate’s African American Initiative, recently launched to reduce the cases of late-stage breast cancer in women in the greater Los Angeles area.
Jeter has good reason for her involvement in cancer research. It’s personal for her. Both her grandmother and a cousin succumbed to the disease. An aunt and a childhood friend’s grandmother are fortunate survivors. Jeter knows that cancer awareness and medical research cannot slow down any more than she can when she’s competing on the track.
“No one is ever guaranteed anything,” Jeter said during a cool-down after a recent workout. “Sometimes it takes time to feel it (untimely death) … you don’t want to admit they’re gone. That is why you must get involved now. All ages are affected by cancer. All colors are affected. You must get tested and not be afraid of the doctor.”
Being “afraid” of the doctor remains a dilemma in the African American community, because of a variety of reasons: poor diet and living habits, lack of information, a dearth of medical care in the inner city, lack of money and medical insurance.
“It can’t be stressed enough that you must get tested and not to wait in fear. Your life could be on the line,” Jeter said.
For five years, Jeter has been among the first to bolt from the blocks at the sound of the starter’s gun, and the first runner to cross the tape. The 31-year-old Los Angeles native is one of ESPN’s “Ten Women to Watch in London,” as well as one of Sports Illustrated’s “2012 Olympians to Watch” at the London Olympic Games in August 2012.
She is scheduled to compete in the World Cup competition just prior to the Olympics.
She will be running in the 100-meter and 200-meter events at the next Olympic Trials. Her 10.7-second win in the women’s 100-meter at the Prefontaine Classic in June earned her an automatic invitation to run the 100 meters at next summer’s Olympic trails. Her winning time of 22.20 in the women’s 200-meters at the Samsung Diamond League meet in Monaco in July resulted in a second invitation.
Jeter anchored the women’s 4×100 relay team, which included Bianca Knight, Allyson Felix and Marshevet Myers. She automatically qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials with the relay team’s victory at the 13th IAAF World Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Daegu, South Korea. Jeter won the women’s 100-meter and 200-meter events there.
In professional athletics and in the arts, the confluence of celebrity and personal discipline is often at odds with one’s perception and understanding of priorities. Jeter finds it a little more difficult today to go unrecognized.
“I don’t think of myself as famous,” she noted, “because I’m just someone enjoying what they do. I still go to the market, I still stop at the gas station… I still go to Target. I understand how one can become overwhelmed by celebrity and the many people and responsibilities associated with it, but my parents would never allow me to get a big head.
“Dad and mom (Eugene and Gloria Jeter) are happy for my success and stress humility to keep me grounded.” Jeter smiled. Even today her father will call her to go over workout tips and competitive strategy, and Jeter said she remembers and every training suggestion her dad has offered for the past 10 years, whether solicited or not.
Jeter seems to save her best performances for prime time. She was a virtual unknown at the 2007 Adidas Track Classic, but since that meet she went on to qualify for her first World Outdoor Championship roster for Team USA with her third-place finish at the 2007 AT&T USA Outdoor Championships.
Prior to her professional accomplishments, Jeter would become the most decorated track & field athlete at Cal State Dominguez Hills, where she graduated with a degree in physical education in 2004. With an eye on education, Jeter eagerly accepts the position of role model for young girls and is an active supporter of the Chicago program “Each One Teach One” in which mentors, educators and professional persons “adopt” a student and tutor them. Jeter will speak at a banquet for this organization in Chicago today.
“What pushes me so hard is that I am a competitor,” she said. “It (competition) runs through my veins. When I’m even approaching the starting blocks, way before I’m set, I visualize myself incorporating all of my training to that point. When the gun sounds I am focused on that race. This unwavering concentration is not uncommon in professional sports. Pro basketball Hall of Fame member Bill Walton would famously call this type of mind control “X chemistry” in that the participant actually sees themselves in action in a kind of slow-motion.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar once said of a game-winning shot that “…the ball suddenly felt as small as a baseball and the basket was twice its normal size.”