Uniondale’s Shevon Nieto is moving on to the next round of "America’s Got Talent." The two-time Olympian sang an original song on the show, “Through the Good and the Bad,” and got a standing ovation and four "yes" votes from judges Howie Mandel, Sofía Vergara, Eric Stonestreet and Simon Cowell in an episode that aired Tuesday night on NBC.
“It was very emotional, I had tears in my eyes,” Nieto told Newsday moments after the show ended. “Making it here was like me making the Olympics all over again.”
After performing her song and returning backstage, Nieto, 37, announced that she and her husband, two-time Olympic high jumper Jamie Nieto, are expecting a child. The couple had only told family and a few close friends before the episode aired, Shevon Nieto said.
“When I was on the show, I was [about] four months pregnant,” she said. “But I just picked the right dress so you couldn’t really tell. … We were really excited about the performance airing, but we were more excited to make that announcement. It was like the icing on the cake.”
Nieto, who now lives in California, watched the East Coast airing of the show online.
“It was really exciting,” she said. “Just to know that you’re about to be live on television in front of millions of people, that’s pretty awesome.”
Nieto, born Shevon Stoddart, immigrated with family to the United States, settling in Uniondale, from her native Jamaica at age 4. She graduated Uniondale High School, then competed for the country of her birth in the 400-meter hurdles at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
She performed 45 minutes into the two-hour show. The song was inspired by her husband, who was paralyzed from the chest down after attempting a back flip while coaching at California's Azusa Pacific University on April 22, 2016.
“Shevon used music to help me get through this,” said Jamie Nieto in a feature that was aired before his wife sang. “She had this other passion, maybe that could be your new gold medal.”
“For me to be on that stage with my music, after all we’ve been through, I just felt like it made everything we’ve gone through worth it,” Shevon Nieto told Newsday last week.
Nieto recorded the episode in March in California. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no audience present — just the four judges, her husband, and host Terry Crews.
“It was kind of a bummer because you love to have your family, friends and people in the audience to cheer you on,” she said. “They give you a certain energy from the crowd. Not having [them] there, it was fine too because I still had Simon and I still had ... [the judges] there in front of me. It changes everything, but the judges are the ones that you want to really make sure they say yes. That’s all I needed.”
Although Nieto said she was nervous, she was able to bottle those nerves up and put forward a strong performance.
“I think I must have got that from preparing for so many Olympic Games and world championships,” she said. “You have to learn and train yourself to compete under that kind of pressure. Even if you were nervous, you had to try and block it out as best as you can.”