Jamie Nieto said he’s regaining strength, mobility and a greater ability to breathe every day since a training accident paralyzed him from the neck down on Friday.
“First and foremost, I’d definitely like to thank God I’m still alive,” Nieto said from a hospital bed, wearing a neck brace, in a video posted on social media Wednesday night. “Second of all, just want to thank everybody for your support. It’s been amazing and overwhelming, and for me it’s been a life-changing experience.”
Nieto, a retired 2004 and 2012 Olympic high jumper known for backflip celebrations, hit his head attempting a backflip while coaching Friday and underwent spine surgery.
“I slipped doing a flip,” he said. “My disc in my neck slipped and hit the nerve and paralyzed me. I could still feel my body, but it was numb and tingling, but I couldn’t move.”
Nieto called his injury an “incomplete sever” and said he has a “high chance of getting better.” He’s already improving. Breathing and swallowing remain “a little hampered” but are getting easier.
“Every day, I’m regaining strength and mobility, and I’m starting to move more stuff,” he said.
Nieto said he will document his recovery until he’s 100 percent with no complications.
“A lot of things come into perspective when something like this happens,” he said. “It makes you realize that stuff like this can happen to anybody. One day you’re floating along, and your life is going well, and everything’s cool. Then maybe you get a car accident, or you’re doing training things and flipping and hit your head. You never know what can happen. You’ve got to take advantage of these times in your life and enjoy it and embrace your loved ones and do the best, be the best person that you can be to everyone you meet.”