Manteo Mitchell didn’t get to stand atop the podium at the Olympic Games. Mitchell’s Olympic appearance lasted roughly 45 seconds as he ran an unspectacular first leg in the preliminary round of the 4x400m relay. Mitchell didn’t turn heads as people watched the race at home, and he wasn’t mobbed for media interviews after the race.
But all of that changed on the afternoon of August 9th when only hours after his Olympic performance Team USA’s medical staff released the information that Mitchell broke his leg during the relay. With a complete fracture of the fibula bone in his left leg, few would have faulted Mitchell for not finishing the race. Few athletes would have been able to hold their composure and walk off the track and talk to the media with not even a tear in his eye.
But for Mitchell the thought of not finishing never crossed his mind. He didn’t want to draw attention to himself after the race. For Mitchell, it was all about the team.
On the day of the race, Mitchell told USA Track & Field, “I didn’t want to let those three guys down, or the team down, so I just ran on it. It hurt so bad.”
Once the news of Mitchell’s heroic actions got out, his life was instantly changed.
“My life has been crazy,” Mitchell said. “It is a major transition. I don’t know how long this is going to last, right now it is looking like the rest of my life. I’m just in a position and have a platform that I have to take advantage of and use it to benefit not only myself, but USA Track & Field and the sport in general.”
Since Mitchell has returned to Cullowhee N.C., his days have been filled with two or two and a half hours of physical therapy five times a week along with media requests, motivational speaking engagements and numerous appearances.
“There have been so many things I have gotten to do,” Mitchell said. I’ve thrown out first pitches at baseball games, my high school’s rival football game honored me, I’ve had crazy amounts of motivational speaking engagements. Probably the most interesting thing I’ve done was going on “The Doctors” television show, and that will be airing soon.”
Even with all of the perks of fame and the opportunities that Mitchell has enjoyed, at the end of the day, he is still a runner dealing with an injury.
“The cool thing is that I have a face that is recognizable and I can reach people and share my message,” Mitchell said. “But the setback is the most disappointing part. I could have still been running up until early September.”
Mitchell traveled to Indianapolis on September 17, to spend three days at St. Vincent Sport Performance center to undergo evaluations and treatment on his leg. While he was originally told to expect to spend six to eight weeks in a hard-sided walking boot after his injury, it only took Mitchell three and a half weeks to walk without assistance. Mitchell has regained full range of motion in his leg and is optimistic that his quick recover will continue.
“My main goal now is to get my leg back healthy. But I want to make the world team for Moscow in 2013 definitely. I want to make my first international team as an individual, but of course I want to run in the relay, too.
“The 4x4 is my favorite race,” Mitchell said. “It is the icing on the cake at the end of the meet and it is always what people want to see.”
Stay up to date on Mitchell's progress by following him on Twitter: @ManteoMitchell