Amy Van Dyken's Life Story — From Astonishing Olympic Wins to Tragic Accident and Paralysis
Amy Van Dyken competed as a swimmer in the past but her life took an unexpected turn. Here are some highlights of her life, including her amazing athletics feats and a tragic accident that paralyzed her.
After sustaining severe injuries in an ATV accident that wrecked her spine and rendered her paralyzed, Olympic gold medalist Amy Van Dyken declared herself more spiritual than before.
"You're like, you know what, there's something bigger and better than me," Van Dyken told Today in 2014. "Maybe you should focus on it a little bit — because I'd like to meet that person later rather than sooner."
In 1996, Van Dyken beat asthma to win the 50-meter freestyle and 100 butterfly events. She was also part of two winning relays and became the first American woman at the Olympics to win four gold medals.
The 2000 Olympics saw Van Dyken accomplish two more golds in the relay. At the time, she was a resident of Arizona, working locally for a radio station before going national with Fox Sports Radio.
Originally from Colorado, Van Dyken spent two years swimming for the University of Arizona before returning home to attend Colorado State. In 2008, she was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Committee Hall of Fame.
THE ATV ACCIDENT
Van Dyken suffered a severe spinal cord injury in an ATV accident on June 6, 2014. Her spinal cord and vertebral column were stabilized with emergency surgery when she was airlifted to a hospital.
Almost all of the damage to the area came within millimeters of hitting and possibly damaging her aorta. Nevertheless, the tragic accident rendered her paralyzed from her waist down.
She said since her accident, it's been a feeling she chases every day.
SHE REMAINED POSITIVE
Following a two-month rehab session, Van Dyken left Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado. Her positive attitude kept her happy as she arrived at the hospital in Englewood after two ambulances and a private jet ride.
Van Dyken, and her husband, Tom Rouen, were riding an ATV when Van Dyken hit a curb and fell down the embankment. According to her, she was face down and not breathing when her husband found her.
Even though the accident and her hospitalization are largely obscured from her memory, Van Dyken completely remembered what the doctor said to her before the emergency procedure.
"The doctor told me before I went into surgery to say our goodbyes," Van Dyken said. "There was a good chance I wasn't going to make it out of surgery. I looked at my husband and said goodbye."
After nearly three months of treatment and rehab, she took her first steps with the aid of a walker and an apparent bionic device. Van Dyken shared snaps and videos of her first steps after the accident on social media.
It is clear from Van Dyken's captions that she's optimistic. She wrote that she was walking again. The Olympic athlete also got to stand next to her husband for the first time in more than two months.
SKIING FOR THE FIRST TIME
Van Dyken acquired an adaptive ski in 2017 that enables the paralyzed athlete to go downhill. As she slid downhill at Breckenridge Education Center in Colorado, Van Dyken told Today:
"I had dreams about this!"
The athlete marked another step forward after suffering a severe injury by taking up the sport. The husband of Van Dyken, Rouen, said skiing allowed his wife to embrace the competitive spirit within her.
THE FOUNDATION SHE STARTED
The inspiration Van Dyken has provided not only for her own recovery but also for others through Amy's Army, a foundation she founded with her husband to help others suffering from spinal cord injuries.
Van Dyken wanted to show by example that even the thrill of speeding downhill was not taken away by a severed spine. She said since her accident, it's been a feeling she chases every day.
Meanwhile, Van Dyken attributed much of the improvement in her mental ability, energy, and her body image to the keto diet, which is the newest trend in dieting, hailed by celebrities like Kim Kardashian.
SHE JOINED A COMPETITION
Van Dyken took part in the WheelWOD Games back in 2019. The game was an adaptive CrossFit competition that demands an effort to reach the top 12 in the world in order to be invited.
In 2018, Van Dyken began doing adaptive CrossFit exercises at one of the gyms in her home state of Colorado. It just felt right to her, simply because that's how she trained at the Olympic Training Center.
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