One of the inspiring stories of patriotism to come out of the 2012 London Olympics was that of Manteo Mitchell, an American athlete who ran a distance of about 200m on a broken leg. Manteo, a quarter miler, was a member of the US 4x400m relay team that eventually won the Silver medal in the event.
Being a race that had been dominated by the Americans for decades, most people expected the first qualifying round to be a stroll in the park – even without the injured talented duo of Jeremy Wariner and LaShawn Merritt. There was therefore a sense of surprise when Manteo, who took the first leg of the relay race handed the baton over to the next athlete second from the last position. Though the other three members of the team did make up for the lost time and finished joint winners of the heat, that didn’t stop the criticisms of his performance.
Fans were quick to condemn his effort, enraged that with the depth of talents available to the USA Track and Field, such a ‘poor’ athlete should never have been part of the Olympic team. Some of the criticisms turned to personal insults.
Few hours after the race, it emerged that Manteo, who had been treated for an injury sustained from a fall at the Athletes’ Village a few days earlier, suffered a fracture to his fibula during the race and had to run the final 200m on a broken leg!
When interviewed after the race, he confessed that he was tempted to stop running along the way but persevered because he noticed that other members of the team were anxiously waiting for the baton and didn’t want to let them down. He went through the pain barriers – at the risk of aggravating the injury, and by extension putting his career on the line – not to let his nation down.
Just like the ignorant critics, we are sometimes tempted to jump to conclusions without making adequate checks when we see things not go the way they should. We find it easier to condemn than offer a helping hand, or at least investigate. A little more questions, a little more enquiries, a little more seeing from the ‘other side’ may change our outlook about a situation, and that may be all that’s needed to offer a helping hand instead of jumping to a wrong conclusion.
Manteo Mitchell passes the baton to Joshua Mance in the qualifying heat of the 4×400 relay