Aug. 9, 2012
LONDON, ENGLAND -
Portions of story courtesy USA Track & Field:
Running the opening leg for Team USA in Thursday morning's 4x400-meter relay semifinal, Manteo Mitchell was a pivotal part in helping his team to the final.
The Bahamas and United States finished 1-2 in the heat in identical times of 2:58.87, the fastest time ever run in the first round of the relay at the Olympic Games.
Without a doubt, it was the fastest time ever run in the Olympics by a team whose leadoff runner broke his leg midway through the race.
Mitchell, 25, was part of the Team USA relay pool after placing fifth in the 400-meters at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Eugene, Ore. Earlier this week in the Olympic Village, he slipped on a stairway and didn't think much of it - until Thursday.
"Three days ago I was going up the stairs and I kind of missed one and landed awkwardly," Mitchell said. "I got treatment and I was fine. I did workouts, and when I warmed up today I felt really well. I felt I could go 44 (seconds)-low. I got out pretty slow, but I picked it up and when I got to the 100-meter mark it felt weird. I was thinking I just didn't feel right. As soon as I took the first step past the 200-meter mark, I felt it break. I heard it. I even put out a little war cry, but the crowd was so loud you couldn't hear it. I wanted to just lie down. It felt like somebody literally just snapped my leg in half.
"I knew if I finished strong we could still get it (the baton) around," he continued. "I saw Josh Mance motioning me in for me to hand it off to him, which lifted me. I didn't want to let those three guys down, or the team down, so I just ran on it. It hurt so bad. I'm pretty amazed that I still split 45 seconds on a broken leg."
After the race, Mitchell was taken to the Athlete Village medical area, where his leg was x-rayed and diagnosed by team doctor Bob Adams as a break of his left fibula bone.
"Manteo has become an inspiration and a hero for his teammates," CEO Max Siegel said. "Without his courage and determination to finish, Team USA would not be at the starting line in the final. The team has rallied around him and we are all looking forward to the final days of competition."
Manteo Mitchell completed his undergraduate work at Western Carolina while competing for head track & field coach Danny Williamson and is currently enrolled in WCU's physical education program.
"When I saw the split I knew something wasn't right," said Williamson. "He didn't run either of the two race plans that we have for him to run so I knew something was off. Initially when I talked to Manteo, he thought he had a cramp and that it was odd because he didn't know you could get a cramp in your ankle. Later on we found out the news, but in the last 100-meters, he felt a snap.
He had enough courage to get it back to the finish line. That just shows his philosophy of being a team player; he's in it for the team. Secondly, it shows how we train. We train to be tough. It kept the team in the race and the other guys were able to do their jobs and get the United States to the final."
Team USA will announce the final lineup for the men's 4x400-meter relay Friday morning.
Visit www.usatf.org for a bio of Manteo Mitchell.