LONDON – Running the opening leg for Team USA in Thursday morning’s 4x400m relay semifinal, Manteo Mitchell (Cullowhee, N.C.) 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 400m 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 the final days of competition.”
Team USA will announce the final lineup for the men’s 4x400m Friday morning.
Visit www.usatf.org for a bio of Manteo Mitchell.