0629 SP Village Runner race

Jamie Nieto (USA) reacts after a clearance of 7-5 (2.26m) in the mens high jump qualifying to advance during the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on Aug. 5, 2012; London, United Kingdom

Nearly 3,000 runners are expected at the starting line in Riviera Village for this year’s 24th Village Runner 4th of July 5K in Redondo Beach on our nation’s birthday. The Village Runner is also going to give out its “Pathfinder Award” to high jumper Jamie Nieto of Los Angeles, who is a two-time Olympian.

“It’s definitely an honor to be able to get an award like this on July 4th and I’m definitely excited to be out there and encourage all the runners to compete well,” Nieto said. “I think it is an honor and a great privileged. I feel blessed to be able to accept the award.”

Last year Nieto, who is also an actor, injured his neck while working with some high jumpers. He was performing some back flips that he normally does when he lost his footing.

Following surgery, he is now focused on getting back on his feet after being paralyzed from the chest down.

“The biggest struggle to get fully back is patience,” Nieto said. “I am on a mission to recover 100 percent.”

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Recently, Nieto took 200 steps without the aid of a walker or cane, which is an incredible achievement in just over a year.

“I hope to make a full recovery within two years,” he said.

Nieto was one of the United States premier high jumpers for more than a decade. His best finish in his two appearances in the Olympics in 2004 and 2012 was a fourth place at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

His personal best is 7-feet 8-inches and he accomplished that when he took fourth in the 2004 Summer Olympics.

He grew up in the Sacramento area and found his way to the high jump there. He went out for track and field after a friend asked him to try it.

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“It sounded good to me and I decided to do it and ended up having a lot of fun with it,” Nieto said.

Nieto went on to advance to the California state meet his first season he competed and followed it up again his senior year.

He went on to compete for two years at Sacramento City College where he earned a scholarship to Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He was a three-time All-American while there under head coach Bob Parks.

“It took time to develop,” said Nieto, who went on to be one of the United States top high jumpers.

His breakthrough year was 2003 when he won the US Outdoor Championships and also was the silver medalist at the Pan American Games in the Dominican Republic.

He was a 4-time national champion and he was the oldest United States high jumper to ever qualify for the Olympics at 35 in 2012.

In total, he high jumped for 20 years and over half of that time he was a professional.

The 4th of July 5K run and community walk will get things started beginning at 8 a.m. There are also kids races for those ages 12 and under will start at 9:30 a.m.

The race will have age division awards and cash prizes to the top three overall racers in the 5K. All kids participating in the Firecracker Dash will receive medals for running too.

Costumes are welcome as well. Prior to the start of the race, there will be the red, white, and blue costume contest with prizes awarded for the best running costumes.

All racers will receive a unique 4th of July Run T-shirt.

You can register online for the race at villagerunner.com.

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