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. Ronda Rousey knocks out Bethe Correia in 34 seconds

    Aug 2, 2015, 1:28 AM EDT

    AP AP

    Rousey is a 2008 Olympic judo bronze medalist.

  2. World Swimming Championships men’s preview

    Jul 31, 2015, 10:55 AM EDT

    Ryan Lochte Getty Images

    Action gets started Sunday in Kazan.

  3. USOC collecting data on polluted Rio Olympic water venues

    Jul 30, 2015, 3:42 PM EDT

    AP AP

    A US Sailing official maintained his stance on the Rio water from last year.

  4. Which Miracle on Ice item is the toughest for Jim Craig to sell? (video)

    Jul 30, 2015, 1:31 PM EDT

    Jim Craig AP

    Watch the goalie’s interview on The Dan Patrick Show.

  5. British Athletics clears Mo Farah after investigation

    Jul 30, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Farah was to have “blood data, supplements data, everything surrounding his medical treatment” investigated.

  6. World Swimming Championships broadcast schedule

    Jul 30, 2015, 10:12 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    NBC, NBC Sports Live Extra and Universal Sports will combine for daily coverage.

  7. Almaty or Beijing? IOC set to choose 2022 Winter Olympic host

    Jul 30, 2015, 8:08 AM EDT

    Sochi Olympics Biathlon AP

    Either way, the vote will mark an Olympic first.

  8. Allyson Felix to run 400m at World Championships

    Jul 29, 2015, 6:27 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Felix will be absent from the 200m at Worlds for the first time since 2001.

  9. Simone Biles turns pro

    Jul 29, 2015, 4:49 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Biles won’t be eligible to compete collegiately.

  10. Abby Wambach ‘planning on playing’ in Rio, ‘still need time to decide’

    Jul 29, 2015, 1:53 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    It would be tougher for Wambach to make the Rio Olympic team than the 2015 World Cup team.

  11. Markus Rehm, German amputee long jumper, left off World Championships team

    Jul 29, 2015, 12:19 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Rehm has the best long jump by a German this year, but he may have a competitive advantage.

  12. Inbee Park criticizes Olympic golf qualifying procedures

    Jul 29, 2015, 11:45 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    “If you are in the world’s top 50, you should be able to play in the Olympics.”

  13. IOC president: Boston 2024 didn’t deliver on promises to USOC

    Jul 29, 2015, 11:02 AM EDT

    AP AP

    “I gave up following [Boston 2024] because it was pretty confusing.”

  14. Russia basketball says it’s suspended by FIBA

    Jul 29, 2015, 10:28 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Its Olympic qualifying tournament is in less than two months.