Ran with a broken leg ... Manteo Mitchell, back second right, prepares to hand over the baton to Josh Mance. Photo: AFP
MANTEO Mitchell didn't quite feel right. He was 100 metres into his 400m run and his leg felt weird. Another 100 metres further on and he felt his leg crack, he even heard the snap and screamed out in pain. Incredibly he did not stop. He wanted to lie down but didn't, he just kept going through the pain and ran the last 200 metres with a broken leg.
More amazing still was that his effort meant his American team not only finished the relay semi-final, but won it in 2:58.87, the fastest time ever run in the first round of the 4x400m at the Olympics.
Manteo has become an inspiration and a hero for his teammates. 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
Mitchell finished his 400m leg with a broken leg in a respectable time, running 46.1 seconds as America won through to the final of the event they have owned at the Olympics - winning the last eight times they have contested it.
It was only a few hours later that doctors confirmed he had a broken left fibula.
"I figured it's what almost any person would've done in that situation," Mitchell modestly said of his effort to keep running.
He said that he had fallen awkwardly after tripping while walking up stairs at the Athletes' village several days ago, but that after treatment he felt no discomfort and believed he was fit and ready to run.
"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 100m mark it felt weird. I was thinking I just didn't feel right," he said.
"As soon as I took the first step past the 200m 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."
USA Track and Field chief executive officer Max Siegel said: "Manteo has become an inspiration and a hero for his teammates. 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."