Amy Van Dyken was a superstar long before she graced our SCI Superstar series. A former American competitive swimmer who won six Olympic gold medals throughout her Olympic career, she was the most decorated athlete at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
But last year, years after retiring from competitive swimming, Amy became a paraplegic in a freak accident with her whole life changing an instant. But she’s moved on from her injury better than most have expected, and she’s already reaching out to help others with spinal cord injuries.
Why she’s fearless
Amy’s pre-injury life was something only many could dream of – Olympic medals, traveling the world, forging a career in television, marrying the love of her life – but she worked hard to make it happen. Funnily enough it was asthma that first got her involved in athletics (to stay healthy) and this would jump-start her love of swimming and her future swimming career.
Attending both the University of Arizona and then Colorado State university, Amy’s career exploded in the nineties. After she retired in 2000, she married former NFL punter Tom Rouen who she’s still married to till this day (and yes he has stuck around post-injury). She also became a public speaker and sideline reporter for both the Seattle Seahawks in the Denver Broncos after retiring.
Also for several years in the later 2000’s she was a drive time host on 98.77 The Peak in Phoenix, Arizona, as well as the host of Fox Sports Tonight with Rob Dibble until 2013. Media is definitely another one of her passions in life.
And it was last June when Amy was injured, when out on a ride her ATV landed directly on her. If it wasn’t for the amount of muscle mass on her body from being in such good shape, Amy would’ve likely died since the ATV landed right over her aorta. The injury however did sever her spinal cord at T12. Amy had to go through a 6 hour spinal fusion and was eventually transferred to Craig hospital in Colorado where she spent two months of rehab.
The amazing thing about Amy since her accident has been her positivity. She already says, “I’m a better person than before the injury” and she’ll recount how she was getting disillusioned with humanity before her injury. Now, post-injury, she says she sees the good in so many people willing to help her. “A seventy year old lady offered to help me get my wheelchair out of my car the other day,” she says.
Since returning home from her injury, Amy has been busy. She founded The Amy Van Dyken Foundation to help pay for medical supplies not covered by insurance for people with spinal cord injuries. “I want to stop people from having a shower in their backyards,” says Amy in her foundation’s intro video. Such a powerful statement, and so very true.
She’s also returned to sports reporting. Last February she covered Pac-12 Networks’ telecast of the Pac-12 Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships. Amy refuses to quit. She hasn’t let her injury make her take any steps back in life. That is without a doubt the true Olympian spirit within her.
How has Amy’s foundation helped you?
– Amy’s foundation: The Amy Van Dyken Foundation
– Learn more: Team Reeve for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation
Watch the videos!