Manteo Mitchell Breaks Leg During 4x400 Relay and Still Finishes Race

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 09:  Manteo Mitchell of the United States and Gustavo Cuesta of Dominican Republic compete during the Men's 4 x 400m Relay Round 1 heats on Day 13 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 9, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)
Feng Li/Getty Images

The Olympics are full of great athletes doing seemingly impossible things. Manteo Mitchell continued that narrative as he ran his part of the 4x400-meter relay on a broken leg.

According to a press release from USA Track and Field, Mitchell initially injured his leg three days ago while preparing for a workout. He slipped while going up some steps but felt well enough to compete.

That was, at least, until he started running the race. As Mitchell said in the press release:

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. 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.

He should be amazed, as should everyone else, that he even finished. Most human beings would be done immediately after such an injury, but Mitchell fought hard enough to keep his team in the race.

His actual 400-meter split of 46.1 seconds is still a world-class time. It ranked fifth among the eight runners opening the race for their teams, and it helped the U.S. finish the relay tied for the best mark in the semifinals. 

The fact that this event was the semifinal for a relay probably pushed the runner to go harder. If Mitchell was forced to stop, he would not only have let himself down, but a number of teammates as well. Fortunately, he did enough to finish the lap and give the American contingent a chance at the gold in the finals.

This was the only event Mitchell was set to compete in during the Olympics after finishing fifth at the trials. He was a part of the relay team that won gold at the 2012 World Indoor Championships, but now he will just have to watch his teammates try to earn that medal.

At least he will have a great story about his trip to London.