Just over 14 months ago, Jamie Nieto was among the elite athletes in the world, a two-time Olympic high jumper helping coach future jumpers.
But when Nieto, who finished fourth in the high jump in 2004 and sixth in 2012, attempted to show his pupils his signature celebration — a backflip — he slipped when he jumped, sending him straight back rather than into a somersault. Minutes later he was in a helicopter on the way to a nearby Los Angeles hospital. Post-surgery, Nieto couldn’t move much other than his shoulders. And after three grueling months of rehab, he finally went home, as detailed by the Associated Press.
But that was just the beginning of the process to start walking again. While getting funding from friends, family and the track community, Nieto slowly progressed. He has started work on a book about his recovery that he hopes to turn into a movie while documenting his physical therapy via Instagram. With fiancée Shevon Stoddart, who he met in 2010 and proposed to in 2016, by his side, he started walking again:
In mid-October, they went to a jewelry store to pick up the ring they’d selected. He proposed to her on the spot and in his wheelchair. He promised he would be ready to walk down the aisle by the wedding date.
A few months ago, that didn’t seem likely without assistance. He could only take six shaky steps on his own.
Soon, it was 23 steps. Then 53, 80 and now 130 for their wedding at a church in San Diego.
Stoddart, a former Olympic hurdler for Jamaica, continues to push him to walk even greater distances, and the two are set to be married on July 22. And Nieto will be walking to the altar, a truly incredible feat.