Amy Van Dyken: Six-time Olympic gold medalist suffers broken spinal cord in freak quad bike accident

Her family and that of husband Tom Rouen issued a letter that says she awoke from surgery 'acting like her typical spunky, boisterous, ebullient self'

Six-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Amy Van Dyken severed her spinal cord in a quad bike accident over the weekend, and she told emergency workers she could not move her toes or feel anything touching her legs.

The 41-year-old swimmer, who goes by her married name Amy Van Dyken Rouen, was injured on Friday. She was airlifted to a hospital and had surgery to stabilize her spine.

Hospital spokeswoman Alice Giedraitis didn't provide details Monday on Rouen's injuries. She said the swimmer was in good condition Monday afternoon.

A letter from the Van Dyken and Rouen families said she severed her spinal cord at the T11 vertebrae and that the broken vertebrae came within millimeters of rupturing her aorta.

"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," the letter said.

A report by the Show Low Police Department said the ATV that Rouen was driving hit a curb in a restaurant parking lot and sent her over a drop-off of between 5 and 7 feet.

Rouen was found lying on the ground next to the ATV. She was strapped to a backboard and airlifted to Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn Medical Center.

A witness said he saw Rouen launch over the curb and found her unresponsive when he arrived on the scene, the report said. Rouen was not wearing a helmet at the time.

Her husband, former Denver Broncos punter Tom Rouen, told police officers he had changed the throttle mechanism on the bike from a thumb accelerator to a twist accelerator a few days before the accident, though wasn't sure if it was a factor in the accident.

He said his wife had not been drinking alcohol that evening.

"So hard hearing about (Amy) and her horrific accident," fellow American swimmer Missy Franklin said on Twitter. "I am praying continually for you and your family."

Rouen starred at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where she became the first U.S. female athlete to win four gold medals in a single games. She captured the 50-meter freestyle and 100 butterfly and also competed on the winning relay teams in the 400 free and 400 medley.

Four years later at Sydney, she added two more golds in the 400 free and 400 medley relays before retiring from competition.

In 2003, she was among numerous prominent athletes who testified before a grand jury investigating the BALCO doping scandal. Rouen never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs during her career.

"The USA Swimming family is devastated to learn of Amy Van Dyken's unfortunate accident this weekend," the organization said in a statement. "We're happy to hear that she escaped and is now in great care. That she is already 'acting like her typical spunky, boisterous, ebullient self' shows she's on a great path."

"Amy is a champion who has proven throughout her life that she is a fighter who takes on challenges and comes out on top. We know Amy will tackle her rehabilitation with vigor and be back on her feet sooner rather than later," it said.

Rouen grew up in Denver and became a world-class swimmer despite suffering from asthma as a child and into adulthood. She swam two years at the University of Arizona and transferred to Colorado State University, where she broke the U.S. record in the 50-yard freestyle during the 1994 NCAA championships.

She has worked in television and radio after retiring from competitive swimming, and currently lives in the Phoenix area with her husband.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Amy during this difficult time, but we know she'll fight her way back to health," Arizona swimming and diving coach Rick DeMont said in a statement. "Her drive and determination helped her become one of swimming's all-time greats and we know she'll use those same attributes as she sets out on the path to recovery."

AP

Sport
wimbledonScot will face Ivo Karlovic next
Sport
football
News
Hillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test