Former Olympian Jamie Nieto suffered an unimaginable loss after a miscalculated backflip resulted in a spinal cord injury 15 months ago. The Washington native—known for representing the United States in the high jump event in the 2004 and 2012 Olympic Games—had only one goal after proposing to his girlfriend, hurdler Shevon Stoddart: to walk at the couple’s July 22 wedding.
Nieto, 40, accomplished that goal on Saturday, despite doctors’ warnings that he may never walk again. “It’s a monumental day, so I think I need to do monumental things,” he said before the nuptials, according to ESPN. “I’m definitely blessed and super happy to be here. I’ve worked really hard to get to this point, and I think it’s just the first step to many more in my recovery.”
It has been a long road for Nieto, who broke into acting in 2009. Following his failed jump, he was treated in an intensive care unit before moving to an impatient rehabilitation facility. Since going home, he has continued to work diligently toward his goal of walking.
On his wedding day, Nieto arrived at the Greater Christ Temple Apostolic Church in San Diego determined to ditch his walker once he arrived at the altar. Although he kept a cane nearby, the former athlete stood independently throughout the ceremony, and was victorious in walking his bride down the aisle after becoming husband and wife.
Groomsmen Kevin Henderson couldn’t be more proud of Nieto. “It’s amazing,” he said of his friend’s achievement. “He’s been working on it for so long. He set a date, as far as when he wanted to walk. That way he knew he could walk down the aisle. He wanted to walk down instead of having to be in a walker or wheelchair. He set a goal, and he accomplished it, so that means a lot.”