Jamaica Observer: Following in the footsteps of Tessanne Chin who won The Voice in 2013 and Dalton Harris who topped X Factor UK in 2018, two-time Olympian Shevon Stoddart is taking to another track on America’s Got Talent which is aired on NBC.
The episode featured the Jamaican-born athlete who represented the country in the 400-metre-hurdles at two Olympic Games (Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008) and three World Championships (Helsinki 2005, Osaka 2007 and Beijing 2015).
The clip features a snippet of her performance of her original song Through The Good And Bad, for the panel of judges which includes chief judge Simon Cowell, Modern Family star Sofia Vergara and actor Howie Mandell. The song was written about her relationship with her husband Jamie Neito, himself a two-time Olympian who represented the United States in the high jump. Neito suffered a near-fatal jumping accident in 2016 which left him paralysed from the chest down.
“I retired from track and field in 2016 when Jamie had his accident. He slipped and landed on his head which left him with a C3, C4 spinal injury. There was no way I was going to leave him in that state. That is when he needed me the most so I stayed by his side knowing how scared he was at not being able to move. My dreams no longer existed. I just wanted to be there for him,” she told the Jamaica Observer in an interview from her home in New York.
Stoddart who has always loved singing said she was willing to put that dream on hold, however it was Neito, whom she married in 2017 after the accident, that encouraged her to pursue her dream.
“I was always singing. If you ask the athletes I would always sing for the team when we were at championships. Jamie always encouraged me to sing as he didn’t want me to give up on my dream for him, but the truth is that I couldn’t see anything apart from getting him well. We had decided to get married and I just wanted him to be able to walk down the aisle. He kept encouraging me to write song and a lot of motivational and inspirational music came into my head. That’s when I wrote and recorded Through The Good and The Bad,” she shared.
The song and accompanying music video were released in November last year and caught the eyes of the producers of the popular talent show.
“We released the song and video for his birthday in November and on January 13 I received an e-mail from America’s Got Talent through a foundation we have set up to help persons with similar injuries. They had seen the video and various interviews and appearances we had made and were interested in me being on the show. I spoke to Jamie who definitely gave it his approval. He was happy that a dream of mine was coming to light. I also prayed for divine guidance. I then called back and told them I was interested and willing to audition,” Stoddart explained.
The audition was held in March of this year before the global shutdown due to COVID -19 and Stoddart described the experience as “pretty amazing”.
“I got on that stage and sang my song. This has been a dream of mine since I was eight years old. I had put track and field first as I knew I would always have my voice and could come back to singing, but would not always have my speed. I reached my track and field goals of representing my country at the Olympics and now it was my opportunity to giving music and performance a shot.”
Stoddart was born in St Andrew, Jamaica , migrated to the United States at age four. Her talents on the track were revealed during her high school years and earned her the New York state championship title over the 400 metres and a scholarship to the University of Southern Carolina. She noted that during those college years she became even more determined that she would represent Jamaica even though she was eligible to compete for the United States.
“Jamaica has always been home. As a young child I would be in Jamaica every holiday so I never felt distant. Once I was seriously into track and field I wasn’t coming home as often due to training and meets, but was still home. When I decided to compete for a spot on the Jamaican team and had to come for trials, that was a rush. Now my Jamaican family could see me compete and that meant a lot to me. I have been honoured to wear the national uniform on the international stage and represent Jamaica.”
The last time Stoddart was in Jamaica was in 2018 for the Jamaica Invitational Games where she sang the national anthem, which she said was another big moment for her.
As it relates to Tuesday’s episode of America’s got Talent, Stoddart is tight-lipped about what happens, however she implored Jamaicans to watch and give their support.
“The clip that they have released only gives you so much. You were not able to see the reactions and hear the responses of the judges so you will have to tune in to see what exactly happens. There is also a special surprise. I can’t tell you what it is, you’ll just have to tune in to see,” she said.