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Carmelita Jeter wakes up at six, eats her Wheaties, puts on her clothes, and heads to the office—just like you. The difference? Her office is a gymnasium, her to-do list is a five-hour training session, and her upcoming business trip just happens to be the 2012 Olympics. As the current world champion in the 100-meter dash, Carmelita is coming down the home stretch in the race to this summer’s games. “I try to remind myself that no one’s going to give this to me,” she says of her physically demanding training schedule, which consists of two hours in the weight room followed by three on the track. “Nobody’s going to stop the race and say, ‘Oh, okay, you can win!’ I have to put in the work.”
Training like an Olympian means some workout conditions are non-negotiable—the soundtrack, for instance. “Music is very important to me,” Carmelita explains. “I can’t just hear anything. I’ve got to feel it. It’s more of an attitude.” So what’s been getting her in the zone lately? “The last meet that I ran in, I warmed up to Best of Aaliyah. But there could be a particular day when someone puts on Jay-Z, and I say, ‘No, I want to listen to Maroon 5!’” she exclaims. Once the music stops, the “Fastest Woman in the World” is equally at home in the express checkout of a department store as she is in the speed lane of a race track. “I have a bit of a shopping problem,” the self-professed girly-girl cheerfully confesses, naming fashion and beauty among her chief interests outside the gym.
Even being an international track star has its dark moments, however—a lesson Carmelita learned the hard way in 2008, when a combination of overconfidence and under-training kept her off of the United States Olympic team. Instead of allowing the setback to derail her, Carmelita threw herself into her training, determined to make a comeback through good old-fashioned sweat and tenacity. Sure enough, her hard work paid off—Carmelita shattered her personal bests the following year, taking multiple gold medals at international athletic competitions and running the second-fastest 100-meter race in history. Carmelita hopes to continue her winning streak in London this summer, and accredits her stick-to-itiveness to her father’s influence. “I push myself to the limit,” she says simply, “and I do not allow anyone to limit me.”
—Emma Aubry Roberts