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'One of the Greatest Days of My Life': Paralyzed Olympian Walks on Wedding Day

'One of the Greatest Days of My Life': Paralyzed Olympian Walks on Wedding Day Read Transcript

Former Olympic high jumper Jamie Nieto

was paralyzed from the neck down in April of 2016

after demonstrating his signature backflip

for a few Olympic hopefuls.

Now, he is defying the odds and doing what doctors thought

he never would; Jamie is starting to walk again,

and he took his first steps on his wedding day,

keeping a vow that he made to his bride-to-be.

He joins us now by Skype to talk about that special day.

Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Jamie Nieto.

How you guys doing?


We're doing great.

Thank you.

Congratulations, Shevon and Jamie.

It's good to be with you.

Thank you for joining us.

Jamie, we go back to 2004, my friend,

that first qualifying for the Olympics.

Since then, you've covered a whole lot of territory, man.

Two-time Olympian.

Almost three, 2008, almost three.

We talked about that.

Acting, modeling, now you're coaching.

Just so proud of what you're doing, man.

I got to ask right off, how did it

feel to achieve this goal of walking for your wedding,

walking your wife down the aisle?

It was an amazing experience.

I was just super happy and just feel

super blessed that God was able to help me get back on my feet,

and this lovely woman, as well.

Shevon, how did you feel seeing Jamie walk and achieve

that goal?

It was a pretty amazing day, and just

to see him standing at the altar, waiting me to walk down,

was pretty amazing.

He's been working so hard for this moment,

and to see him pull that off, it was definitely special.

SHAWN BROWN: That's awesome.

Now, I just mentioned you've covered a lot of ground

since 2004, then April of 2016, take me back there.

What actually happened?

You were doing a signature backflip

that I know you've done for years.


What actually happened that day?

Take us there.

Well, I was coaching, and, like I said,

we pulled over to the side, and I

was doing one of my signature backflips,

and I was on some AstroTurf.

And literally, I don't know if I hesitated or what happened,

but my foot slipped.

So instead of jumping up with both feet,

it seemed like I almost really just pushed off with one.

And I basically went from my feet to my head

as I somersaulted over, and then the rest of my body kind

of went over.

And at that point in time, I was partially paralyzed.

Do you recall what you were thinking in that moment

as you're lying on the floor?


The very first thought that came to my head-- and I believe

this was God saying this-- was, don't worry, you'll be OK,

you just have to go through this.

And I was like, what?

You know, it was just such a weird like, what?

You know?

And then the next thoughts were like kind of panic

and, oh my god, I hope I'm not paralyzed.

And I just started to pray, and I even

had some of the athletes pray for me and stuff like that,

and just trying to keep the faith that, you know,

everything was going to be OK.

Now, you find out there is some paralysis.

Obviously, there is a road to recovery

that you have to go on.

You've logged all of it on Facebook and all

the social media channels.

I've followed you.

Just getting after it.

As an athlete, you know, that's what you guys do,

you get after it.

Tell us about the recovery.

How was the process?

It's long and arduous, but, you know,

it's one of those things that, for me, it's long and arduous,

but I think everybody else sees it going by really fast,

but I live it every day, and I want to be better yesterday.

But I just got to be patient and just

keep learning those lessons that God is trying to teach me,

and I've learned a lot so far.

So you know, it's tough at times.

Sometimes I get frustrated, but majority of the time, you know,

I'm doing all right.

I'm pretty upbeat.

I'm positive.

And you know, I have my powerful motivator here help me out,

as well.

So it's all right.


Now, as an athlete, do you think that background helped

to keep you motivated and pushing it, you know,

when I got hard?

I mean, I know it gets tough, but as an athlete,

that competitive nature, did it start to kick

in when things got tough?

Oh, yeah, definitely.


I wasn't going to be denied, I guess in a sense.

You know, I was in the hospital, working on trying to walk,

and they had me strapped up to this like crane

kind of machine, and I just--

my legs weren't moving the way I wanted to,

and I just started praying and telling myself,

I'm going to run, I'm going to run.

And then miraculously, like my legs started moving and doing

what I didn't know they could do,

that I just willed them to kind of start doing.

And you know, that was a blessing,

and that was kind of that first moment where I was, like,

all right, I can do this, and I'm going to be right.

I just got to keep pushing and go to that next level mentally

to be able to get what I want.

You know?



Now obviously, I know that you're a man of faith.

You hear a lot of voices, when you're

going through tough times, you hear a lot of voices,

all of them aren't positive.

Talk about your faith, man, and how

it helped you stay focused, keep the goals at hand,

stay in pursuit.

Talk about your faith and the role that it played

on this road to recovery.

Well, Yeah, I mean, like those times when I get frustrated,

you know, and I can't do something or feel

like I can't do something, my faith

is big because I just turn to God.

And so when I'm having a bad time or a bad day or--

I don't even want to really say a bad day.

This is an isolated incident that I can't--

not having the right time--

I'm not really getting over very well

or I'm not really doing very well, I just stop

and, you know, I might cry for a minute,

and I pray out loud and just talk to God

and get it off my chest.

And then after that, I'm able to move on with it, you know?


You are at this place now, man.

I mean, an amazing feat right now,

at the place that you're at right now.

You still got the Will Smith thing going on, man.

I talk about that a lot over the years.

You look a little bit like Will Smith,

got the Will Smith thing going on.

What does the road look like ahead for you, man?

What does it look like, you know, moving forward?

Moving forward, just I'm still rehabbing.

I'm still doing stuff to get stronger and better,

but still writing, acting, producing, and helping

with my beautiful wife here.

She's an amazing singer.

She sang to me coming down the aisle, which

almost had me crying and falling down on the ground.

So helping her with her music career and stuff like that.

And I'm writing a book, as well.

I'm 11 chapters in, my autobiography.

And hopefully some motivational speaking, as well.

All right.

That's awesome, man.

I like that you're staying busy.

Jamie, Shevan, thank you for your time.

It is so great to see you, my brother,

and my sister, my new sister.

Bless you both.

Thank you.

You will be in--

my family and I will be praying for you,

lifting you up, praying with you.

And thank you so much, guys.

Take care.

Thank you.

Thank you, Shawn.

Bless you both.


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