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American Sprinter Manteo Mitchell Runs Relay on Broken Leg

Manteo Mitchell
Getty Images

There have been sad stories from this year’s Olympic Games, such as the tale of Shin A Lam. There have been tales of triumph, such as Mo Farah of Great Britain winning both the 10,000m and 5,000m gold medals in front of his home crowd. But the greatest tale of sheer toughness in this year’s Olympics didn’t end up on the medal stand. It happened in the first leg of the first round of the men’s 4 x 400m relay, as American Manteo Mitchell ran the second half of his lap on a broken leg.

Mitchell, 25 years old, was running the opening leg of the first heat for the Americans in the 4 x 400m, a race that they had won gold in every Olympics since 1980. Talk about lofty expectations, the kind that put pressure on even the best of competitors. Mitchell had the lofty task of putting them in a good position to qualify for the next round.

As a part of the gold medal winning team in the 2012 World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, Turkey this year, Mitchell has done this before. Not a problem. However, this time, he claims to have not felt right from the start, something that showed right away. He fell behind, then things got worse.

Mitchell heard a snap in his left leg about halfway through his lap, according to his account. Many people, myself included, would have stopped right there  and curled into the fetal position until medical attention came. Mitchell didn’t want to let his teammates down. He ran the last 200m with what he later found out was a broken fibula.

By this point it was just a miracle that he could get around the rest of the track to pass the baton to his teammate to continue the race, but he did just that. In fact, he did so in just 46 seconds, 1.5 seconds slower than he had hoped for. Again, he did this ON A BROKEN LEG. The US picked him up and qualified. The team that ran in the finals did well enough for a silver medal, meaning that Mitchell will receive one for running in a qualifying heat.

This may well be the most amazing story to come out of the Olympics in 2012. For anyone who has injured themselves before, just think about how hard it was to complete routine tasks. Manteo Mitchell completed a lap around the track in 46 seconds. He may have earned a silver medal, but his performance was nothing short of the gold standard.

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