Former U.S. Olympic high jumper Jamie Nieto has been temporarily paralyzed in a horrific training accident. The high jumper landed on his head during training in California while performing a backflip. Following the accident it appeared the former Olympian had a severe spinal injury and was flown directly to USC Medical Center by helicopter. While en route to the hospital, Nieto began losing feeling in his hands and legs.
The Daily Mail reports that Nieto is said to be regaining strength. However, while Nieto’s manager Paul Doyle reports that the former Olympian is making good progress, he notes that there is a long road to recovery ahead.
Athlete Biz reports that Jamie was injured while performing his “signature move” during training when the accident took place.
“Most of you probably remember this was Jamie’s signature move. After every competition, good or bad, Jamie would wave to the crowd and do a back flip or back handspring. While doing one of these back flips, something happened and he didn’t complete the rotation and landed on his head. He fell to the ground and was immediately paralyzed. He couldn’t feel his body and was having difficulty breathing.”
MRI scans reportedly show no breaks in the neck and no permanent damage to the spinal cord. However, Nieto will need months of expensive rehabilitation services. Unfortunately for the former Olympian, he has no health insurance. It was disclosed that Nieto was struggling financially before the accident and had cancelled his health insurance in a bid to save some money. With his current injuries and care required, Nieto is now facing mounting medical bills that are believed to stand at about $20,000.
— Ashton Eaton (@AshtonJEaton) April 25, 2016
Lolo Jones, a bobsled and fellow track and field Olympian, is now trying to raise funds to cover Nieto’s medical expenses. Jones notes that Nieto was viewed as a “team captain” in the Olympic track and field team and that he helped her get through some of her toughest moments.
“This is someone who was one of the most elite athletes in the world. He’s always been a light for me. Even when i had some of my toughest moments, he was always there to be an encouragement. He was the unspoken team captain and I just beg of you to please donate to him so that we can help him get back on his feet.”
The fundraising page reveals that full details about Nieto’s injuries are not known. However, Jones notes that she doesn’t need all the details to know that this elite athlete needs her help. She goes on to provide all of the accolades for the Olympian by noting he made it to the podium “the right way” through hard work and dedication.
“For anyone who does not know, Jamie is a two-time Olympian and four-time USA Champion in the high jump. He earned his place on the podium the right way, through hard work and dedication to his craft. He is now a private coach for an elite group of jumpers, in addition to an actor, writer, and producer. Those within the track world and beyond are fond of his regular interview series, Holla Athcha Boy, where he interviews world class and Olympic athletes.”
— USATF (@usatf) April 25, 2016
At the time of this writing, Jones’ campaign for the injured athlete has reached $10,357. The fundraising page has a goal of $20,000. There have been no further details provided about Nieto’s accident, but his manager seems confident that the world-class athlete will use his determination to make a full recovery.
[Image via David J. Phillip/ AP Photo]