On good days, American excessive jumper Jamie Nieto can shuffle one hundred thirty steps with no cane or walker.
It’s an essential distance – concerning the size from the altar to the church door. His vow: Make all of it the best way, beneath his personal energy, when he’s married on July 22.
The 2-time Olympian is recovering from a spinal twine damage he suffered on a misjudged backflip in April 2016. The accident initially left him with no feeling in his arms and ft. Strolling? Docs couldn’t predict if he would take various steps – or any in any respect.
”Individuals maintain saying my restoration is admittedly quick,” stated the forty-yr-previous Nieto, who lives in Los Angeles. ”I really feel prefer it’s not quick sufficient. I need to be higher tomorrow. I’m constructed for velocity, not for going sluggish. However I’m engaged on being one of the best walker I might be.”
Nieto proposed to Jamaican hurdler Shevon Stoddart whereas in a wheelchair, six months after The Backflip. It was his signature transfer after huge occasions.
On April 23, 2016 , the maneuver went critically incorrect for the excessive jumper who as soon as cleared 7 ft, eight inches to complete fourth on the 2004 Olympics. He was teaching some jumpers when he confirmed them his backflip experience. His first try was just a little off, and he requested for an additional attempt.
This time, he pushed off with one foot on the substitute turf and it slipped, forcing him straight again as an alternative of right into a somersault. The complete weight of his physique crashed on his neck.
”I couldn’t actually really feel something. I used to be caught there. I used to be like, `Oh shoot, I harm myself fairly dangerous,”’ recalled Nieto . ”I had the athletes name 911.”
He was flown to a close-by hospital in Los Angeles and had surgical procedure to fuse a disc in his neck. When he awoke, he might solely shrug his shoulders and flex his quadriceps muscle mass. His palms and ft?
”Nothing,” Nieto stated. ”However I knew I used to be going to make a full restoration. There was by no means a doubt.”
The excessive jumper who completed sixth on the 2012 London Video games spent 12 days in intensive care, two months at an inpatient rehab facility and eventually returned house round this time a yr in the past.
At first, routine duties have been a wrestle: Rolling as much as get away from bed, brushing his tooth, getting dressed.
He didn’t have insurance coverage, both. So his associates launched a marketing campaign that’s raised greater than $eighty,000 .
Identical to his days on the monitor, Nieto is pushed as he goes via grinding exercises 5 days every week. He paperwork his progress on social media, with one in every of his posts – lifting weights and pushing a sled – being seen greater than four,000 occasions .
”Bodily, I wasn’t probably the most gifted athlete, however I labored actually arduous,” stated Nieto, who as soon as demonstrated his leaping capability by excessive leaping a automotive . ”I had the psychological capability to struggle to the top. At that degree, it’s what separates good athletes from nice athletes.
”I’m nonetheless making an attempt to push these boundaries and limits.”
He met Stoddart round 2010 – a narrative he enjoys telling. They each confirmed as much as audition for a tv business ”to promote TVs,” Nieto stated. ”I simply stated, `Hello.”’
She obtained the half.
”Guess I ought to’ve targeted on greater than saying, `Hello,”’ he laughed.
Quickly after, they turned Fb pals, and someday he dropped Stoddart a word that they need to have dinner after a monitor meet.
She agreed. An immediate connection between the excessive jumper and the four hundred-meter hurdler.
”We have been speaking about getting married earlier than the accident, and once I had the accident it was clear to me, `What are we ready on?’ You by no means know – you would be gone tomorrow,” Nieto stated. ”I requested her if she was able to get married now or wait till I acquired higher.”
Wait, she stated.
She’s been there for him all through his restoration, feeding him within the hospital when he couldn’t raise his arms, serving to him dress when his fingers struggled with buttons and transferring him from his wheelchair to the mattress when he struggled.
”As I get higher and getter, she has to do much less and fewer,” Nieto stated. ”She’s executed a lot for me.”
In mid-October, they went to a jewellery retailer to select up the ring they’d chosen. He proposed to her on the spot and in his wheelchair. He promised he can be able to stroll down the aisle by the marriage date.
A couple of months in the past, that didn’t appear probably with out help. He might solely take six shaky steps on his personal.
Quickly, it was 23 steps. Then fifty three, eighty and now one hundred thirty for his or her wedding ceremony at a church in San Diego.
Stoddart’s response? Go for 200.
”I hold pushing him ahead,” stated Stoddart, who was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and moved to Uniondale, New York, as a child. ”After he (walks down the aisle), I’m going to be like, `OK, now jog. Now run.’ I proceed to push him so he may be the most effective he may be.”
Earlier than his damage, Nieto wrote screenplays and appeared in films, such because the movie ”Baseball’s Final Hero : 21 Clemente Tales” during which he performed Pittsburgh Pirates nice Roberto Clemente. He continues that work, ending a script for an episode of the TV present ”Household Time” and making a cameo in a cleaning soap opera, the place he performs the position of a physician.
Nieto is also 10 chapters right into a e-book about his restoration that he hopes to show into a movie. He already has the main actor picked out – himself.
”I don’t see why not? I plan to be one hundred pc once more,” Nieto stated. ”I don’t assume there shall be any dry eyes within the theater.”
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