Trojans In The Olympics: Mance and Nellum Earn Silvers In 4x400m Relay


In one of USC’s finer moments in Olympic history, 400-meter runners Bryshon Nellum and Josh Mance reached the winners’ podium with Team USA in the 4x400m relay on Friday. Though they did not earn the gold—anchor leg Angelo Taylor faded down the homestretch and was run down by the Bahamas—their silver-medal performance is incredible for more than one reason.

Nellum, after being shot in the right hamstring on Halloween in 2008, was never supposed to run in London 2012. The injury was supposed to curtail his career, and for the three years after it when he was hampered by further injuries to the leg, the gunshot wound seemed like it would. During the 2012 season, Nellum returned to form and it was clear he was determined to do the seemingly impossible. He cruised through track season and found himself competing in the NCAA finals, and from there, the Olympic trials. He edged out fellow Trojans and Team USA relay teammate in the open 400m at the trials and earned the right to run in London.

Mance, thrilled for his teammate, joyfully embraced him in spite of the fact that he would not get to run in the race. The two would get a shot to run on the relay team, if the cards fell in their favor.

Nellum qualified for the open 400 with the fastest American time, after USA-favorite LaShawn Merrit bowed out when he pulled his hamstring in the first round of preliminaries. In the semis, he narrowly missed making it to the finals by coming in third in his heat. He still had the 4×400 to look forward to, and due to a series of unfortunate events—or fortunate, depending on how one looks at it—Nellum and Mance were guaranteed a spot on the relay team.

After Merrit went down due to injury, 2004 Olympic Champion Jeremy Wariner sustained a season-ending hamstring injury as well. Then, during the 4x400m trials, Manteo Mitchell fractured his tibia and would not get to run in the finals, meaning that Nellum and Mance would. It should be noted that Mitchell’s incredible effort on a fractured leg gave USA enough cushion to come in second in their heat.

With so many veterans falling to the alleged “4x400m curse”, the odds were stacked against Team USA: The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, and Great Britain were also serious contenders in this event.

However, it would seem that the Olympic gods are Trojans, too, and appreciate what it means to fight on.

Nellum lead the relay team and got the Americans into third place before handing the baton off to Mance, who ran an excellent run and put the U.S. in a position to take the lead. Tony McQuay kept USA in the lead when he handed the baton to veteran Angelo Taylor, and it seemed as if the Americans would win the gold again. However, Ramon Miller of the Bahamas took the lead in the final stretch of the race and crossed the finish line first.

This marked the first time Team USA did not win the 4×400 relay since 1984.

Though they did not win the gold, the success that Trojans Mance and Nellum have accomplished in their young careers cannot be questioned. Especially for Nellum, who overcame an incredible amount of adversity to even get to the Olympic stage.

With their medal performance, USC’s count stands at: 11 gold, 8 silver, and 4 bronze.

After the race, news broke that Nellum will also be the Team USA flag bearer for the Closing Ceremony.

Talk about an incredible ending to a story that was almost never written.