A former Olympic high jumper who was paralyzed while doing a backflip last year is determined to walk down the aisle of his upcoming wedding.
According to the LA Times, track-and-field legend Jamie Nieto, 40, was badly injured in April 2016 while coaching four athletes looking to compete in the Olympics.
A backflip after each meet was Nieto's signature move. He's won four U.S. championships, finished fourth at the Athens Olympics in 2004, and at 35, he was the oldest male high jumper to make the U.S. Olympics team in 2012. He came in sixth at the London Olympics.
Nieto has probably backflipped thousands of times, which made the accident all the more alarming. On that fateful day, he fell onto the ground and landed on his neck. He couldn't feel his arms or legs.
Doctors said Nieto would regain upwards of 30 percent of his body's previous abilities. Nieto estimates that number currently hovers somewhere around 60 or 70 percent, and he's only moving forward.
"Maybe after 20 years of high jumping it's just programmed into my life and my thoughts," Nieto said to the LA Times. "OK, I'm down now, but how can I do better? I've got to get better."
With the support of Olympic hurdler Shevon Stoddart, whom he met and began dating five years ago, and recovery specialist Skye Severns, Nieto has learned to use a walker, put on a shirt, turn on a lamp, comb his hair, and more.
Despite the hardships of Nieto's new ways of life, Stoddart encourages him to solve problems on his own.
"I feel like the Olympic Games were a warm-up for what he has to do now," Stoddart said to the LA Times.
Last fall, Stoddart wheeled him into a jewelry store, and a saleswoman handed him a small box. It was then that Nieto asked Stoddart to be his wife.
She said yes.
Since the accident, Nieto has taken 80 unassisted steps. He's going to take 150 steps to walk the aisle at a church in July, where he's set to wed Stoddart.
He said he's determined not only to walk those steps but to eventually run them.
Nieto has the fight of an Olympian, after all.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Flickr user Tsutomu Takasu