Skip to content

Olympic champ swimmer Amy Van Dyken Rouen severs spine

Jun 9, 2014, 2:39 PM EST

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. Tori Bowie ‘going after medals’ after breakthrough season

    Jan 27, 2015, 4:14 PM EST

    Tori Bowie Getty Images

    Bowie may try to make the World Championships team in three individual events.

  2. Yohan Blake details ‘dreams’ for 2015

    Jan 27, 2015, 2:37 PM EST

    Yohan Blake Getty Images

    Once Usain Bolt’s top rival, the Jamaican is returning from a second major injury in as many years.

  3. Lance Armstrong on forgiveness: ‘We’re getting close to that time’

    Jan 26, 2015, 2:41 PM EST

    AP AP

    Armstrong touched on many topics in a BBC interview.

  4. Martina Hingis eyes Rio Olympics

    Jan 26, 2015, 10:58 AM EST

    Martina Hingis Getty Images

    Could Hingis return to Olympic tennis, 20 years after her only Olympic appearance?

  5. South Korean Olympic swim champ Park Tae-hwan fails drug test

    Jan 26, 2015, 8:41 AM EST

    Park Tae-hwan Getty Images

    Park’s management agency cited “an illegal injection administered by a local doctor.”

  6. Jason Brown wins first U.S. figure skating title

    Jan 25, 2015, 9:48 PM EST

    AP AP

    Brown is the youngest U.S. men’s champion since 2004.

  7. Sage Kotsenburg, Jamie Anderson beaten in Winter X Games slopestyle

    Jan 25, 2015, 7:35 PM EST

    Sage Kotsenburg Getty Images

    Instead, past Winter X Games champions prevailed in Aspen.

  8. WATCH LIVE: U.S. Figure Skating Championships men’s free skate — 4 p.m. ET

    Jan 25, 2015, 3:00 PM EST

    Jason Brown Getty Images

    Jason Brown tries to become the youngest U.S. men’s champion since 2004.

  9. WATCH LIVE: ‘Lindsey Vonn: The Climb’ documentary — 3 p.m. ET

    Jan 25, 2015, 2:00 PM EST

    Lindsey Vonn

    An inside look at the skier’s comeback from two major knee surgeries.

  10. Lindsey Vonn wins final race before World Championships (video)

    Jan 25, 2015, 7:36 AM EST

    AP AP

    Vonn captured victory No. 64 in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

  11. Ashley Wagner shatters records for third U.S. figure skating title

    Jan 24, 2015, 11:50 PM EST

    Ashley Wagner Getty Images

    Wagner becomes the oldest women’s champion since Michelle Kwan.

  12. Chloe Kim wins Winter X Games halfpipe at age 14

    Jan 24, 2015, 9:15 PM EST

    Chloe Kim Getty Images

    Kim outdueled the greatest snowboarder of all time.

  13. WATCH LIVE: U.S. Figure Skating Championships — 8 p.m. ET

    Jan 24, 2015, 7:00 PM EST

    AP AP

    Gracie Gold wants to deny history for Ashley Wagner.

  14. WATCH LIVE: U.S. Figure Skating Championships — 3 p.m. ET

    Jan 24, 2015, 2:00 PM EST

    Maia Shibutani, Alex Shibutani Getty Images

    Pairs free skate and free dance national titles to be awarded.

  15. Lindsey Vonn struggles in St. Moritz downhill (video)

    Jan 24, 2015, 6:23 AM EST

    AP AP

    Vonn missed an opportunity to all but clinch the World Cup season downhill title.

  16. Jason Brown leads U.S. short program; quad debate stoked

    Jan 23, 2015, 11:58 PM EST

    Jason Brown

    Brown is poised to become the youngest U.S. men’s champion in 11 years.

  17. Lindsey Jacobellis wins ninth Winter X Games title

    Jan 23, 2015, 3:12 PM EST

    Lindsey Jacobellis Getty Images

    Jacobellis has now won 13 gold medals in 18 major championships.

  18. McKayla Maroney, Meb Keflezighi get Topps baseball cards

    Jan 23, 2015, 9:54 AM EST

    McKayla Maroney

    Olympic medalists threw out ceremonial first pitches last season.

  19. Bode Miller will not race Kitzbuehel downhill, hopeful for World Champs

    Jan 23, 2015, 8:44 AM EST

    AP AP

    Miller now looks ahead to the World Championships.

  20. Shaun White beaten in Winter X Games halfpipe

    Jan 22, 2015, 11:57 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    White had the same finish as he did in Sochi.