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. IPC Sled Hockey World Championship starts Sunday; full broadcast schedule

    Apr 25, 2015, 11:10 AM EDT

    Sled Hockey Getty Images

    The U.S.’ first opponent marks a rematch of the Sochi gold-medal game.

  2. Kirani James breaks Michael Johnson record at Drake Relays

    Apr 25, 2015, 10:33 AM EDT

    Kirani James AP

    Only two men have ever run faster this early in the season.

  3. Bruce Jenner: I’m a woman; Olympians react

    Apr 25, 2015, 8:53 AM EDT

    AP AP

    Jenner explained how he felt different while winning the decathlon at the Montreal 1976 Olympics.

  4. Watch Drake Relays, Penn Relays on NBC Sports Live Extra on Saturday

    Apr 24, 2015, 3:51 PM EDT

    Justin Gatlin Getty Images

    Several Olympic champions are in the fields at the two meets.

  5. Michael Phelps to move to Arizona with coach Bob Bowman

    Apr 24, 2015, 3:50 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Phelps has followed Bowman to an NCAA stop before.

  6. Simone Biles discusses Martha Karolyi’s team selfie, U.S. teammates, more

    Apr 24, 2015, 12:24 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Biles is in the middle of a four-month break from competition.

  7. Sled hockey helps Josh Sweeney in his recovery (video)

    Apr 24, 2015, 11:09 AM EDT

    Josh Sweeney Getty Images

    Sweeney and Team USA begin World Championship play Sunday.

  8. Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir headed to White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Kentucky Derby

    Apr 24, 2015, 10:26 AM EDT

    Johnny Weir, Tara Lipinski Getty Images

    NBC’s figure skating analysts will be visible daily during Kentucky Derby week.

  9. New MLB commissioner wants long-term baseball pledge from Olympics

    Apr 23, 2015, 4:51 PM EDT

    AP AP

    But he also shares the sentiment of Bud Selig on MLB participation.

  10. Doug E. Doug reflects on ‘Cool Runnings’

    Apr 23, 2015, 2:25 PM EDT

    Doug E. Doug Getty Images

    Doug wasn’t allowed to bobsled while filming, but he recently took his first run.

  11. Meb Keflezighi hopes to be an example for Ryan Hall as Olympic trials approach

    Apr 23, 2015, 12:29 PM EDT

    AP AP

    “It depends who you ask,” Keflezighi said of the U.S. Olympic Trials favorite.

  12. U.S. Olympic Wrestling Trials to return to Iowa City

    Apr 23, 2015, 9:02 AM EDT

    Jordan Burroughs Getty Images

    Two Olympic champions appear headed for a second Olympics, while a World champion seeks a first Olympic berth.

  13. Paul Wylie ‘resting comfortably’ after heart problem

    Apr 22, 2015, 3:12 PM EDT

    Paul Wylie Getty Images

    Wylie had a “heart abnormality while exercising,” his wife said.

  14. Nadia Comaneci: Simone Biles’ difficulty is almost equal to men

    Apr 22, 2015, 2:40 PM EDT

    Nadia Comaneci Getty Images

    Comaneci, the subject of a Katie Holmes-directed documentary, discussed current gymnastics topics.

  15. Larry Bird, David Ortiz among Boston 2024 board of directors

    Apr 22, 2015, 12:21 PM EDT

    Larry Bird Getty Images

    U.S. Olympic marathon and figure skating medalists are also in the group.

  16. Ten sports where Brazil can win medals at Rio 2016

    Apr 22, 2015, 11:48 AM EDT

    Arthur Zanetti Getty Images

    Included are some potential U.S.-Brazil duels.

  17. Sweden mulls 2026 Winter Olympic bid

    Apr 22, 2015, 9:11 AM EDT

    Sweden Getty Images

    Sweden scrapped a bid for 2022, and a joint Norway-Sweden bid has also been proposed.

  18. Figure skaters recall odd gifts from fans

    Apr 21, 2015, 3:51 PM EDT

    Figure skating gifts Getty Images

    Michelle Kwan, Meryl Davis, Evan Lysacek and more Olympians tell their memorable stories.