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Sprinter Manteo Mitchell’s Leg Was Broken – But Not His Spirit

By Chris Privett | August 11, 2016 | Explore NC

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It would be awfully difficult to deal with the disappointment of coming in dead last in a race with the entire world watching. But imagine finishing last behind a runner with a broken leg.

Manteo Mitchell delivered that psychological blow four years ago.

Mitchell, a lifelong North Carolinian who lives in Asheville, won the silver medal in the 4×400 relay at the 2012 games in London. He’ll be forever known as the man who ran on a broken leg, fracturing his left fibula – the bone on the left side of your calf – halfway through his lead-off segment of the relay and still managing to pass off the baton to his teammate. And he didn’t finish last in his heat.

Racing Into History

mitchell3Mitchell’s gritty performance has earned him a place in athletic history, providing us with one of America’s most inspiring and memorable sports moments.

Sprinting a full lap of the track is challenging enough, but doing half of it with a painful broken bone is unthinkably difficult.

“After reaching the 200-meter mark in my lane, I knew it was bad news,” Mitchell recalls. “I felt it and heard it snap. I did not have a lot of time to think or process what occurred, my mind was solely on completing my lap of the track as fast as I could without showing any signs of pain.”

As an elite athlete, Mitchell embraces fitness on a level most of us can’t comprehend. But he encourages all of us to lead active lives, even if we don’t have gold medal aspirations.

“The misconception is that you have to eat like Manteo or train like Manteo in order to be healthy,” Mitchell says. “Being healthy isn’t really hard, it just takes time. I believe that with health and fitness, one can live a better, longer life. Make and set your fitness goals and go after them.”


At Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, we encourage people to take on challenges with determination so we can be the best, healthiest version of ourselves. Mitchell has taken that philosophy to a new level, adopting a “Faith-Focus-Finish” credo.

“Faith-Focus-Finish came about when I was about to give up, not just on sports but on life,” Mitchell explains. “Things weren’t going my way. I began to put all of my faith in God. He allowed me to focus on the primary tasks at hand and in doing so, I was able to finish everything I started. I use those three words in all that I do, I live them. They keep me grounded and guide me through some of the hardest challenges. When I talk about Faith-Focus-Finish, it resonates with people and motivates them to do their very best.”

Mitchell is quick to point out that winning isn’t always measured on a scoreboard or a stopwatch.

“As long as you go out there and give your best effort in all that you do, you win,” he says. “I feel it’s also important to set small attainable goals that lead to the big one at the end. We don’t become the best at anything overnight.”

Though he’s known around the world for his athletic prowess, Mitchell is rooted in North Carolina. He encourages his fellow North Carolinians to get outside and enjoy the healthy activities our state offers.

“I am a true North Carolinian,” he says. “I love my state and I’m proud to represent it wherever I go. My three-year-old son loves being outdoors, so the parks, museums and other recreational areas across North Carolina see us often – very often!”

The Secret Weapon: Pancakes

In his travels across the state and beyond, Mitchell takes every opportunity to indulge a passion as strong as his love of fitness: pancakes.

“Pancakes are an important part of my life, I don’t know what I would do without them,” he says with a laugh. “They brighten my day. The fact that I can eat them all day is kind of sad. Wait, did I mention they are protein-packed and right on track with my nutritional plan? Winner!”

Fueled by his favorite breakfast-item-that-can-be-eaten-at-any-time-of-day, Mitchell continues to set new athletic and life goals.

“Right now, the plan is to go after the 2020 games,” Mitchell says confidently. “En route to that goal, there are three World Championship teams that I can shoot for as well. As far as off the track, I am considering a career on the other side of the camera. I enjoy talking and broadcasting seems to be a natural thing for me. I also plan to establish my own brand of barbershops, start my own speed development center, and who knows what else? My thinking cap never seems to come off.”

Manteo Mitchell’s Faith-Focus-Finish approach to life runs through every bone in his body – even when they’re broken.