Fastest woman alive nearly tried bobsled
Carmelita Jeter’s speed allowed her to win three medals as a sprinter at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
And it nearly allowed her to pursue a new sport at a Winter Games.
“I came this close to becoming a bobsledder,” Jeter said, bringing her index finger towards her thumb.
Two-time Olympic bobsled medalist Elana Meyers Taylor had the idea to recruit Jeter to the sport. Meyers Taylor finished second at the Sochi Games with Lauryn Williams, a track-to-bobsled convert with two Olympic sprinting medals.
“After the success that Lauryn had, I had to go and at least see if [Jeter] would be interested,” Meyers Taylor said.
Sure enough, Jeter was intrigued. The fastest woman alive viewed bobsled as an opportunity to extend her Olympic career, after a left quad injury forced her to withdraw ahead of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Jeter even booked a flight to Lake Placid to attend a training camp this fall at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. But just two days before she was set to depart, she reaggravated her left quad injury.
“I was a little disappointed,” Jeter said. “But my leg didn’t want to act right, and I didn’t want to put myself through that again.”
Beyond Jeter's top-end speed, two characteristics impressed Meyers Taylor: coachability and explosiveness.
Meyers Taylor used the improvements Jeter made over the course of her career as evidence that she could listen to instructions and adapt to an unfamiliar sport. Jeter dropped her personal best from 10.97 seconds to 10.64 in 2009 at age 29.
Meyers Taylor also pointed out that Jeter was known for her fast starts.
“Her acceleration and time out of the blocks is what really sets her apart,” Meyers Taylor said. “A lot of times we don’t look necessarily at sprinters who are good at the 200m or upright running, we look for those sprinters who get out of the blocks fast.”
Jeter believes she would have been a successful bobsledder.
“Anyone can be great if they put their mind and heart into it,” she said. “If you’ve ever watched me compete, then you know I would have given bobsled all of me.”
Lolo Jones, a two-time Olympic track hurdler and a 2014 Olympic bobsledder, agreed.
“I think she has a great build,” Jones said about the 5-foot-4, 135-pound Jeter, “and obviously she’s fast.”
But 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Aja Evans cautioned that there is more to bobsled than just speed.
“Everyone can push a sled, but that doesn’t mean you can get down the track,” Evans said. “We make it look easy, but there’s a lot more to it than just pushing a sled really fast. That’s where we lose some people.”
Jeter, 38, announced her retirement from track and field in November, and said she “probably won’t” be seen on a bobsled. But she is still on Meyers Taylor’s radar.
“Bobsled is a sport for older athletes,” Meyers Taylor said. “Who knows, maybe she will come out for 2022.”