"If you don't believe in yourself, nobody is going to believe in you," U.S. Olympian Manteo Mitchell told the Chase Middle School track team during his visit on Monday.
Mitchell, 25, is internationally known for finishing his lap of the 4x400-meter race with a broken leg during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. He broke his left fibula at the 200m mark but managed to finish his leg of the race allowing the American team to qualify for the final. He later earned a silver medal after the team placed second.
During his visit to Chase, Mitchell had a Q&A session with the 34 members of the track team. He answered several questions including what was going through his head at the moment when his leg broke and what motivated him to finish the lap.
"If I had stopped, I would have let the three guys on my team down and an entire country down. I wasn't going to quit," Manteo told the students. "I trained for four years for 44 seconds of a race. When you put that in perspective, you should never quit. Had I fallen, my dreams would have fallen too."
Other questions from the students included what motivated him to pursue track. Mitchell told them how he began his track and field career during his senior year at Crest High School in Shelby. He then received an athletic scholarship to attend Western Carolina University.
"I wasn't born to run track and field, I didn't know anything about it until I got to college," Mitchell said. "My coach took me in as a father figure and I fell in love with the sport. Now I live my life through my sport."
Since his injury, Mitchell has been training to get back in shape for the 2016 Olympics. He talked to the students about his training methods.
"I go 100 percent everyday. I have a race on Saturday. What I do in training today, tomorrow and the next day will effect me on Saturday," Mitchell said. "I train everyday no matter what the weather and it is just me and my coach. I am working on finishing strong since I started training again. I'm at about 90 percent right now."
Mitchell encouraged the team members to stick with it, work hard and inspire other students in the school.
"You are ambassadors at your school, you can inspire other students to come out and try the track team. Other students look up to you," Mitchell said. "There is a huge epidemic now of kids being overweight at a young age. Being in track and field is the easiest way to stay fit and healthy."
After speaking with the team, Mitchell autographed pictures for them and ate lunch with a few selected students.
"The students who got to eat with him are track members and ones that have shown a lot of interest in the sport," said Trudy Jackson, sixth grade teacher. "We tried to choose some we felt would really benefit from interacting with him."
Later that afternoon, Mitchell spoke to the entire student body about his experience in the Olympics.
"Speaking to people is part of my job. This is part of giving back. It's not always about giving money, people appreciate when you give your time. These kids need someone positive to look up to," Mitchell said. "As long as what you say comes from the heart, it is easy. I love doing this."