Skip to content

Olympic champ swimmer Amy Van Dyken Rouen severs spine

Jun 9, 2014, 2:39 PM EDT

Six-time Olympic champion swimmer Amy Van Dyken Rouen severed her spine in an all-terrain vehicle accident Friday and underwent surgery Saturday, according to Swimming World.

“She wasn’t breathing,” said her husband, former NFL punter Tom Rouen, who raced to her aid, according to the Denver Post. “I raised up the back of her neck with my hand, she started gasping for air.”

Swimming World obtained a letter from the Van Dyken and Rouen families:

Dear Friends and Family,

On Friday night our sister, daughter, and wife, Amy Van Dyken Rouen, was emergency airlifted to Scottsdale Osborn Medical Center after an ATV accident in Show Low, AZ. Her husband, Tom, was with her at the time of the accident and bravely kept her stable until the helicopter arrived. An amazing team of doctors performed emergency surgery to repair her spine and stabilize her. Amy’s spinal cord was completely severed at the T11 vertebrae, but, miraculously, a broken vertebrae stopped within millimeters of rupturing her aorta, and she did not suffer any head trauma. 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. She has made at least one male nurse blush. Amy’s attitude has been overwhelmingly positive and optimistic. She has been far more of a comfort to us than we have been to her.

Amy has a long, trying road ahead of her, but as anyone who knows her can attest, her unparalleled mental strength and determination will propel her. She is a fighter. Amy has overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles before, winning 6 Olympic gold medals and becoming one of the greatest female athletes of her generation despite battling lifelong chronic asthma. Now this is her new challenge, her new battle. With the unconditional love and support of her friends, family and fans, Amy welcomes the challenges she will face as she opens this new chapter of her life.

Please keep Amy in your thoughts and prayers.

With love,

The Van Dyken and Rouen families

The Arizona Republic reported these details from a police report:

Show Low police officers, according to their report, were dispatched to the Torreon Golf Club at 7:55 p.m. Friday after receiving a 911 call about Rouen’s accident.

Rouen was conscious but having trouble breathing and without feeling in her legs. A witness saw Rouen driving a green ATV through a parking lot and “launch over” a curb. She was not wearing a helmet. The witness said he ran to Rouen, found her unresponsive and called 911.

Police spoke with Tom Rouen, who said he recently switched the throttle mechanism on the ATV from a thumb accelerator to a twist accelerator and did not know if that was a factor in the accident. The police found no evidence of alcohol being a factor in the accident, and no charges were filed.

Rouen was the most decorated woman at the 1996 Olympics, winning four medals, all gold.

She was the first U.S. woman to win four gold medals at a single Games.

Rouen won two more relay golds at the 2000 Olympics to finish her career with six medals, all gold.

Never get us all together anymore. This is amazing. I have the best family.

A photo posted by Amy Van Dyken (@amyvandyken) on

Rulon Gardner wants to make 2016 Olympic Team

Latest Posts
  1. Olympians recall David Letterman appearances

    May 21, 2015, 11:49 AM EDT

    David Letterman, Tara Lipinski

    Skaters, skiers, gymnasts, track and field athletes and more.

  2. Russian Olympic boss sets Rio 2016 medal standings target

    May 21, 2015, 9:18 AM EDT

    Russia Getty Images

    Russia ceded its place as top challenger to the U.S. in recent Olympics.

  3. First set of Olympic rings unveiled in Rio de Janeiro

    May 20, 2015, 8:10 PM EDT

    Rio Olympic rings Getty Images

    They were a gift from a previous Olympic host city.

  4. Missy Franklin, more Olympians lead most marketable athletes list

    May 20, 2015, 3:07 PM EDT

    Missy Franklin Getty Images

    Usain Bolt dropped on the list and is no longer the top track and field athlete.

  5. German amputee keeps rivaling top long jumpers, eyes Olympics

    May 20, 2015, 1:38 PM EDT

    Markus Rehm Getty Images

    Markus Rehm jumped another personal best on Saturday, moving up the list of top active jumpers.

  6. David Letterman and the Olympics

    May 20, 2015, 1:09 PM EDT

    David Letterman Getty Images

    Letterman had a special correspondent at the 1994 and 1998 Winter Olympics.

  7. Caster Semenya: I can’t stop running because of gender controversy

    May 20, 2015, 12:53 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The Olympic silver medalist has been off the elite competition radar for nearly two years.

  8. Gwen Jorgensen’s triathlon bike helmet includes Paul Bunyan, Bucky Badger

    May 20, 2015, 11:56 AM EDT

    Gwen Jorgensen

    The World champion explained the origin of her design.

  9. Justin Gatlin: ‘All is fine’ with Beijing meet organizers

    May 20, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT

    Justin Gatlin Getty Images

    Gatlin’s agent also called the sprinter “misunderstood.”

  10. Roger Bannister’s shoes from 4-minute mile set for auction

    May 20, 2015, 8:21 AM EDT

    AP AP

    A stopwatch used to time Bannister’s feat was also recently auctioned.

  11. Emily Seebohm, top rival to Missy Franklin, dislocates knee

    May 19, 2015, 12:41 PM EDT

    Emily Seebohm Getty Images

    Seebohm took silver behind Franklin in 2012 and 2013 but was faster last year.

  12. Justin Gatlin ‘kicked out’ of Beijing track meet

    May 19, 2015, 7:47 AM EDT

    Justin Gatlin Getty Images

    “They didn’t have any respect for me.”

  13. Michael Phelps self-assessment: ‘horrendous,’ ‘garbage’ after winless Charlotte meet

    May 18, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT

    AP AP

    The 22-time Olympic medalist finished first or second in zero events at a meet for the first time since the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

  14. USA Diving finalizes World Championships roster

    May 18, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT

    David Boudia Getty Images

    David Boudia leads the team, while a four-time Olympian just missed.

  15. Mao Asada blogs about returning to figure skating

    May 18, 2015, 7:18 AM EDT

    Mao Asada Getty Images

    The three-time World champion is training again but isn’t definite on competing.

  16. U.S. grouped with Russia in 2018 Winter Olympic men’s hockey tournament

    May 17, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT

    Alex Ovechkin Getty Images

    Canada is grouped with South Korea in what could be a rout in preliminary play.

  17. Canada routs Russia for gold, caps dominant World Championship

    May 17, 2015, 4:58 PM EDT

    Sidney Crosby Getty Images

    Sidney Crosby joined an elite club with another career accolade.

  18. U.S. blanks Czech Republic to earn World Championship bronze

    May 17, 2015, 10:54 AM EDT

    Nick Bonino Getty Images

    The U.S. fared better than it did at the 2014 Olympics, despite bringing back just one player from Sochi.