Water News

Six-time Olympic Gold Medalist Severs Spine in ATV Crash

Amy Van Dyken Rouen after winning a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics.

The swimming community is waiting with bated breathe to hear more news about the current condition of former Olympic swimmer, Amy Van Dyken Rouen.

In an accident that occurred on Friday, Van Dyken Rouen was thrown from her ATV after hitting a curve. Since she had not been wearing a helmet, when she was discovered unconscious, she was immediately airlifted to the Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn Medical Center. There, after waking and saying she was unable to feel her legs, she received emergency surgery on her spine.

On Monday afternoon, hospital spokeswoman Alice Giedratis assured the media that Van Dyken Rouen was doing better, but did not provide extended details. A letter released to the press from the Van Dyken and Rouen families further confirmed her stable condition, saying, “Amy awoke within hours of surgery acting like her typical spunky, boisterous, ebullient self and has spent the last 24 hours entertaining her family and her medical staff in the ICU.”

Though the cause of the accident is unclear, her husband suggested the incident might have occurred because of a newly-installed throttle mechanism that changed the accelerator from thumb operated to twist operated. No alcohol was found in Van Dyken Rouen’s system, so it has been ruled out as a possible factor.

Van Dyken Rouen made her mark on the swimming world in 1996 when she became the first American female to ever win four gold medals in a single Olympic Games. Her triumphs in the 50-meter freestyle and 100-meter butterfly, as well as two relays, were even more special because of her lifelong struggle with severe asthma.

Four years later in Sydney, she added two more gold medals to her collection; one for the 400 free and one for the 400 medley. But after her second successful Olympic run, Van Dyken Rouen decided to retire and she and her husband, former Denver Broncos’ punter Tom Rouen, moved to Arizona.

In Phoenix, the couple has lived quietly, with Van Dyken Rouen pursuing a career in journalism at a local radio station. In 2003, she did come forward to testify in the high-profile BALCO doping scandal. Recently, she has been called upon by Fox Sports News to work as a correspondent during the Olympics and other swimming events.

USA Swimming released a statement supporting the swimmer’s recovery. “The USA Swimming family is devastated to learn of Amy Van Dyken’s unfortunate accident this weekend. We’re happy to hear that she escaped and is now in great care.”

Image screenshot of YouTube video by Olympics

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