Broken Manteo Mitchell is a greater Olympian than Bolt
You really don’t know whether to applaud American relay runner Manteo Mitchell or slap him in a straightjacket for express shipment to the asylum.
Mitchell took the turn of phrase “break a leg” far too seriously during his 4 x 400m relay heat the other night. When his left fibula broke about halfway through the opening lap, Manteo had every right to pull out of the race.
But he just kept running.
In fact, he barely even slowed down and still managed to finish his lap in less than 45 seconds. For reference, Aussie Steve Solomon couldn’t even do that in the final of the individual 400m.
This sort of blind lunacy from an athlete is exactly what the Olympic Games are supposed to be about. For two weeks we delight in watching the world’s fittest young specimens as they challenge normal human limits.
Nobody in London has pushed those limits more than Mitchell. More importantly, when he sprinted 200 metres on a broken leg, he was doing it for all the right reasons.
There were three other men relying on Mitchell for their chance to run in the final. If he had gone down, however justifiably, his teammates would have been eliminated from the competition.
Mitchell ran through the searing pain because he didn’t want to let his mates down.
Compare this guy to someone like Usain Bolt. By any objective assessment, the Jamaican sprinter is just as amazing on the track as he so frequently claims to be. But Bolt races for himself. He wants to be the greatest athlete of all time, and he lets us know it.
Good for him, but there are plenty of men and women who compete at the Olympics for a cause greater than themselves. Some are motivated by their national colours. Others want to win for their teammates.
Those are the athletes who really deserve our praise. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be the best for your own sake, but there is something particularly heartwarming about an elite athlete who lets ego become a secondary concern.
Manteo Mitchell will probably need medical help of both the physical and mental varieties as he nurses his crook leg and broken sanity. But the man deserves more plaudits than even the fastest of Jamaican sprinters.