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
(CBS/AP) Manteo Mitchell had 200 meters to go in the first leg of the 4x400-meter relay preliminaries Thursday when he felt his leg snap. He then had a decision to make: keep running or stop and lose the race. To him, it was never much of a choice.
He finished the lap and limped to the side to watch the Americans finish the race and qualify easily for the final. A few hours later, doctors confirmed what he suspected: He had run the last half-lap with a broken left fibula.
"I pretty much figured it was broken, because every step I took, it got more painful," he said. "But I was out there already. I just wanted to finish and do what I was called in to do."
Mitchell finished his heat in a more-than-respectable 46.1 seconds, and the United States tied the Bahamas in the second heat in 2 minutes, 58.87 seconds - the fastest time ever run in the first round of the relay at the Olympics."I pretty much figured it was broken, because every step I took, it got more painful," he said. "But I was out there already. I just wanted to finish and do what I was called in to do."
He said he slipped on the stairs a few days ago in the athletes village but didn't think much of it. Training went well and he felt good when he lined up to kick things off for the Americans. He said he was feeling great, as well, when he looked at the clock while approaching the 200-meter mark, somewhere in the high-20 or low-21-second range.
"I was doing my job," Mitchell said. "But probably at 201 meters, I heard it and I felt it."
He credited something more than simple adrenaline for pushing him the rest of the way around the track.
"Faith, focus, finish. Faith, focus, finish. That's the only thing I could say to myself," he said.