Carmelita Jeter ahead of the 2016 IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rabat (© Kirby Lee)
For a woman who has the nickname of The Jet, Carmelita Jeter saw her engines roaring rather less loudly than usual for much of last year.
Quadriceps problems, a recurrent issue in recent years for the 2011 100m world champion, led to her finishing seventh at the US Championships and fail to qualify for what would have been her fifth successive World Championships.
Her race on 26 June at Hayward Field in Eugene proved to be her last one for 2015 as she then concentrated on getting fit and resolving the tear in her left quadriceps that saw her carried from the track after being unable to make the team going to Beijing.
However, Jeter is now aiming to make her second Olympic team after her three-medal success at the London 2012 Olympic Games, where she acquired a silver in the 100m, bronze in the 200m, and memorably anchored the USA to gold and a world record in the 4x100m. She will have her first IAAF Diamond League for almost a year over 100m in Rabat on Sunday, the first major step on, what she hopes will be, the road to Rio.
"I am coming back from a torn quad last year,” said Jeter, her optimism clearly tinged with a touch of caution. "I’ve been injured and I'm just focusing on getting down the track healthily. I'm very excited to be here and get my season going. I was able to come out to the track today and it felt very good.
“But it’s a game of patience for me, letting the races come to me. My number one goal for this year is to make the Olympic team. After that, everything will fall into place.
“After you have an injury which ends with you being carried off the track, it makes you appreciate things a lot more,” added Jeter, not putting into words any time targets. "Right now, I appreciate that I’m healthy, I’m able to compete and I’m able to compete in a Diamond League meeting."
Ready for Rabat rollout
“However, here in Rabat, I’m going to compete with everything that I have. It’s been a rough couple of years. I’ve torn both quads; I had surgery on my right quad (which she injured in 2013), so it definitely has not been all rosy.”
Notwithstanding her fitness issues, what also gets mentioned, though perhaps a little too frequently, is Jeter’s age.
The Californian, who originally hails from Compton, turned 36 last November. The second-fastest woman ever over 100m – with 10.64 to her name from Shanghai in 2009 – will be competing for a place on the Olympic team against, in some cases, several sprinters barely half her age, such as 20-year-old Hannah Cunliffe who has clocked 10.99 this year. Or even younger, such as the prodigious 17-year-old world youth 100m and 200m champion Candace Hill.
But such considerations aren't about to deter Jeter from her ambitions.
“Everybody keeps talking about this advanced age," she said. "It doesn’t matter your age, it matters your determination and will, your sacrifice.
“I want to prove that I’m really tired of there always being this age limit,” she added feistily, when speaking to local reporters in California last week.
“My thing is what do you say about the girl that didn’t make team, and she was 24? What do you say then? I definitely want to show that age is not a number, and that I am definitely still a contender at the age of 36.
“I am older, and it is four years later, but I am still capable of making this team at the age of 36.”
By means of encouragement, it should be noted that Merlene Ottey ran her personal best of 10.74 when 36 and went on to win a medal in the 100m at the 2000 Olympic Games at the age of 40.
After a refit over the second half of last year, The Jet believes that she’s ready to get airborne again, and is looking to have a successful international flight in Rabat.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF