In April 2016, two-time Olympian Jamie Nieto suffered an accident during a backflip stunt that injured his spinal cord, leaving him partially paralyzed. Although his Olympic aspirations were put on hold, his bride, Jamaican hurdler Shevon Stoddart, determined to marry him as-is. On their wedding day, he accomplished the impossible, walking down the aisle.
Nieto, 40, told doctors that there was no doubt in his mind that he would one day make a full recovery, according to Today. Since his injury, however, he’s struggled to exhibit patience as his body slowly tries to catch up to his mind.
“I feel like it’s not fast enough. I want to be better tomorrow,” he said. “I’m built for speed, not for going slow. But I’m working on being the best walker I can be.”
On July 22, Nieto accomplished just that – walking down the aisle with his bride. Gathered with friends and family in the Christ Temple Apostolic Church in east San Diego, Nieto held onto a loved one as he shuffled to the altar. Attendees erupted in applause.
Stoddard, 34, followed him down the aisle while singing Celine Dion’s ballad “Because You Loved Me” as Nieto waited for her eagerly. As they exchanged vows, the gallery overflowed with emotion.
The two athletes met while auditioning for a TV commercial; later, Nieto asked her out for dinner following a track meet. While their relationship deepened, they spoke of marriage as a possibility, but had no plans to tie the knot in the immediate future. When the accident happened, that all changed.
“We were talking about getting married before the accident, and when I had the accident it was clear to me, ‘What are we waiting on?’ You never know – you could be gone tomorrow,” said Nieto. “I asked her if she was ready to get married now or wait until I got better.”
Given the choice, Stoddard said she wanted to wait until he got married. Now that they are, she enjoys challenging him to be the best he can, and to improve each day.
“I keep pushing him forward,” she said. “I continue to push him so he can be the best he can be.”