Take one for the team

A runner broke his leg during an Olympic relay race and went on running to the end.

“As soon as I took the first step past the 200m mark, I felt it break.” Manteo told the USA Track and Field website.

“I didn’t want to let the three guys or the team down, so I just ran on it.”

Mitchell still managed to finish the opening lap in 46.1 seconds as the US team, also featuring Joshua Mance, Tony McQuay and Bryshon Nellum, went on to set a qualifying time of two minutes, 58.87 seconds.

“It hurt so bad,” the 25-year-old added. “I’m pretty amazed that I still split [close to] 45 seconds on a broken leg.”

USA Track and Field chief executive Max Siegel said: “Manteo has become an inspiration and a hero for his team-mates.”

That’s horribly irresponsible.

Update: I meant that what Siegel said is irresponsible, not what the runner did. I suppose once the runner had done it, onlookers kind of had to acknowledge the heroics…but still, I think it was irresponsible. You know all those kids who go back in the game after being hit on the head? Really bad idea.


  1. says

    Maybe the rules should allow for a do-over if somebody gets seriously injured like this. It’s not like anyone is going to break their leg on purpose because the team is down a couple seconds. This is not behavior you want to encourage.

  2. slc1 says

    This reminds me of a Super Bowl several years ago when defensive lineman Jack Youngblood played on a broken leg.

  3. Kate from Iowa says

    And the gymnast in er…the 90s, Strugg? This kind of thing should not be upheld as greatness. Potentially cripling yourself is stupid, no matter the situation or cause, and should under no circumstances be celebrated.

  4. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    diagnosed by team doctor Bob Adams as a break of his left fibula bone

    The fibula isn’t bearing much (if any) weight, and the danger of finishing the lap was minor. Had he broken his tibia or femur, he would have been down on the track.

    When my SO broke his tibia and fibula, they ignored the damage to the fibula as “meh”.

  5. Kevin K says

    Wow. I think you’re way off base here.

    Sorry, but you completely do not understand athletes and athletics if that’s the word that springs to mind. You don’t have to like athletes or athletics, but at least give the individual participants the right to determine for themselves what they think the proper course of action would be. Especially if they’re right in the middle of arguably the most important moment of their life.

    I see nothing in his behavior that could even remotely be called irresponsible. He endangered no one — heck, his own health wasn’t even in danger. It was a broken bone, not an amputation.

    Athletes perform with injuries all the time. Heck, there’s probably not one professional baseball player working in tonight’s games who doesn’t have some physical ailment.

    It hurts like hell to break a fibula. I know. Running on it? Impossible. Unless you’re a gifted athlete who has been training his/her entire life for this one shot. And for which this one shot also involves other team members, who also get this one and only shot to perform in the Olympics. It’s called “adrenaline”, and it allows you to do some crazy freaky things.

    So, will this encourage other fibula-breaking athletes to run? Heh. Not bloody likely.

    If you’re a high school kid or a weekend athlete who breaks his/her fibula on your track team, or playing football, basketball, volleyball — whatever — you’re going down. I broke mine playing volleyball — people around the corner heard the pop. I went down.

    An Olympic athlete in the middle of his one-and-only shot at the games? In a “qualify or go home” relay race? I can’t imagine how he did it, but I think it’s the height of disrespect to call what he did irresponsible.

  6. says


    heck, his own health wasn’t even in danger

    Are you serious? You honestly can’t figure out how running on a damaged leg could further the damage?

    Otherwise, yeah, I can understand. I’m someone who is stupid enough to play injured. But as stupid as I am, at least I’m wise enough to not expect other people to emulate me. That is perhaps the largest problem with this post — the fact that he “has become an inspiration and a hero.” No, he should be neither of those things. He is a person who made a personal choice to continue, but no one else should be expected to make that same choice. Yet, making him a hero also makes that expectation.

  7. frog says

    On the one hand, yeah, this shouldn’t be encouraged. On the other hand, these athletes are grownups. They are the top-elite of their fields. If they can’t decide what price they’re willing to pay to get the ultimate honors in their life endeavor, then who can?

    And I strongly suspect that the people who admire them are the sort of people who value this kind of thing anyway. When I heard about Manteo, I was like, “Dude! Hardcore! Crazy, but damn that’s impressive.”

    But then again, I trashed my knee 25 years ago for a state junior varsity fencing championship. Nothing close the Olympics. But a quarter-century later I still feel it was worth it. Would I encourage other people to do the same, or regard me as a hero? Not at all. But I resent any implication that I made the wrong choice.

  8. Ken Pidcock says

    I suppose it was irresponsible for Siegel to suggest that Mitchell did something worthy of emulation. On the other hand, if I knew Mitchell personally, I would not hesitate to express my admiration. For his team, that heat, at that time, was the most important thing in the world. For him to endure that kind of pain to ensure that they prevailed…I don’t know how you think of the word heroic, but I think it applies to the extent that it can apply to athletics.

  9. says

    Yeh okay. I meant what Siegel said was irresponsible, not what the runner did. I had a kind of admiration for the heroism myself…but I don’t think people should be encouraged to do things like that.

  10. Aubergine says

    It really depends on the break, as others have noted above.

    My own son broke his collarbone when he was in Little League baseball, but the location of the break was at a point where it was irritating but not obvious. He kept playing (at catcher) for several weeks, when we finally took him to the doctor because his shoulder kept bugging him. It took the x-ray to show the break.

    He gained wide renown with his teammates for playing with a broken collarbone, but it really was not that big a deal.

  11. Samantha Vimes says

    I put together a used bookstore with one other person when I had a broken elbow (and didn’t think it was anything but soft tissue damage; only when it had healed enough for the bone to shift a bit did I realized the real damage). Medical stuff is weird. A minor injury may become irreparable through constant irritation, and a major one can sometimes be ignored successfully for some time.

    I think that the runners’ coach, teammates, etc were pretty much obligated to praise him.

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