Manteo Mitchell hands the baton to U.S. teammate Josh Mance during the 1,600… (Kerim Okten/ EPA )
LONDON — If there’s an Olympic award for courage on the field of play, runner Manteo Mitchell should get a strong nomination.
Mitchell ran the opening leg of the U.S. men's 1,600-meter relay Thursday and seemed to labor, unable to hand over the lead to Josh Mance after a 46.1-second leg.
Afterward Mitchell said he had a cramp in his foot but his struggles didn't seem to matter because Josh Mance, Tony McQuay and Bryshon Nellum rallied to get the U.S. to the finish line in 2 minutes, 58.87 seconds and tie the Bahamas quartet for the fastest qualifying time. The time was the fastest ever in the first round of a relay at the Olympics.
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After the relay, though, Mitchell returned to the Olympic Village and had a doctor check out his leg. X-rays showed he had a broken fibula.
Mitchell, who finished fifth in the 400 at the Olympic trials, had slipped on a stairway at the athletes' village earlier this week but didn't think anything of it.
"Three days ago I was going up the stairs and I kind of missed one and landed awkwardly," Mitchell said in a statement released by USA Track and Field. "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."
Somehow, he kept going.
"I knew if I finished strong we could still get it around," he said of the baton. "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."
The 1,600-meter relay final will take place on Friday. The U.S., which previously lost LaShawn Merritt to a leg injury during the 400-meter heats and more recently lost Jeremy Wariner to a torn hamstring, will announce its lineup Friday.
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