Runner Shevon Nieto has always relished the races that pose the biggest challenge. Her determination to triumph over adversity alongside her husband Jamie has now won hearts all over the world, brought tears to the eyes of judges on America’s Got Talent and won her an Olympic honour beyond her wildest dreams.
It was a shared talent and love for athletics that brought together Shevon and Jamie Nieto, both two-time Olympians.
Shevon competed on the track for her native Jamaica at the Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Games, while Jamie, a high jumper from Seattle, USA, participated in 2004 and also London in 2012.
The couple were planning marriage and a family as Shevon prepared to represent Jamaica once more in the 400m hurdles at the Olympic Games Rio 2016.
But then their world was turned upside down.
Shevon got a call informing her that Jamie had suffered a freak accident while coaching that had severed his spinal cord. He was paralysed from the chest down and was told he would never walk again.
Shevon retired from sport immediately to help with his rehabilitation. Determined to overcome their unimagined new challenges, they married and Shevon turned to music to aid Jamie’s recovery, writing and singing songs for him.
“It was so moving, Shevon using music to get me through this,” recalls Jamie, who soon urged his wife to enter America’s Got Talent.
“I said, ‘You have this new passion. Maybe that could be your new gold medal’.”
And that is how 37-year-old Shevon came to be standing before the judges of the hit TV show to sing a ballad she had written for Jamie, who watched proudly from the wings in a wheelchair.
In the televised audition, her rendition of JThrough The Good And The Bad visibly moved the panel, who each rose to their feet in teary applause before unanimously voting for her to progress to the next stage.
“Welcome to the Talent Olympics,” declared judge Howie Mandel.
Bach said the Nieto story “is an inspiration to so many people to overcome even the greatest obstacles and to run the hardest races in life”.
“It carries all the more meaning to me because the song is about the love shared by two fellow Olympians,” he added. “The [Trophy] sculpture is entitled ‘The Sky is the Limit’, symbolising the challenges overcome by athletes in order to realise their Olympic dreams. I hope it will be an encouragement for both of you to continue to strive ever further on your journey through life together.”
It has since emerged that Shevon was pregnant at the time of her audition, and the couple are eagerly awaiting the birth of their first child.
“We have our goals – this is our Olympics,” Shevon said. “It feels really good to win your races. But it’s the hardest races, those are the best ones. That one is worth everything.”