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Olympic star Van Dyken severs spinal cord in crash

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Olympic star Van Dyken severs spinal cord in crash
26 Jul 1996: Amy Van Dyken of the USA celebrates her win in the Womesn 50m Freestyle Final during the 1996 Olympic Games at Georgia Tech Aquatic Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Mandatory Credit: Al Bello /Allsport
25 Jun 2000: Amy Van Dyken swims in the Womens Freestyle during the Santa Clara International Invitational at the Santa Clara International Swim Center Santa Clara, California.Mandatory Credit: Al Bello /Allsport
Outside Guide for Hi Country Antiquing in Fort Collins on Monday, November 22, 2010. A Wheaties box of cereal with Coloradian Amy Van Dyken on the front at Itchy's Flea Market and Sports Card Shop at 6132 S. College Ave. Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post (Photo By Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
25 Jun 2000: Amy Van Dyken dives into the pool at the start of her heat during the Santa Clara International Invitational at the Santa Clara International Swim Center Santa Clara, California.Mandatory Credit: Al Bello /Allsport
16 Sep 2000: Amy Van Dyken, Dara Torres and Courtney Shealy of the United States celebrate after winning the Women's 4 x 100 meter Freestyle Relay Final at the Sydney International Aquatic Centre in Sydney, Australia during the 2000 Summer Olympics. Mandatory Credit: Nick Wilson /Getty Images
NEW YORK CITY - FEBRUARY 10: Amy Van Dyken attends Fifth Annual American Sports ESPY Awards on February 10, 1997 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
13 Aug 2000: Amy Van Dyken is swimming during the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials at the I.U. Natatorium in Indianapolis, Indiana.Mandatory Credit: Al Bello /Allsport
ATLANTA, GA - JULY 26: Amy Van Dyken of the US bites her fourth gold medal of the 1996 Olympic Games, won in the women's 50m freestyle event 26 July. Van Dyken is the first US woman to win four gold medals in one Olympics. (FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY) AFP-IOPP/Tim CLARY (Photo credit should read AFP-IOP/AFP/Getty Images)
16 Sep 2000: Jenny Thompson, Courtney Shealy, Dara Torres, Amy Van Dyken of the USA stand for the National Anthem as they recieve the Gold Medal in the Womens 4x100 Free Relay Event during the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games at the Sydney International Aquatic Centre in Sydney, Austraila.Mandatory Credit: Donald Miralle /Allsport
Denver Broncos side line reporter for 850 KOA Amy Van Dyken. Reporting on the Broncos vs the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, October 7th, 2007 at Invesco Field. Andy Cross / The Denver Post (Photo By Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
E366502 3/25/00 Phoenix, AZ. Olympian Amy Van Dyken and her companion Kyle Rouen arrive for Fight Night VI, a charity event to benefit the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Research Center. Photo by Mike Fiala/Online USA, Inc.
16 Jan 1998: Jenny Thompson and Amy Van Dyken of the United States celebrate during the World Swimming Championships at Challenge Stadium in Perth, Australia.
UNITED STATES - JULY 23: SCHWIMMEN: ATLANTA 1996 100m Delphin FRAUEN 23.7.96, Amy VAN DYKEN - USA (GOLD) (Photo by Mark Sandten/Bongarts/Getty Images)
10 Feb 1996: Amy Van Dyken of the USA during a heat at the National Swimming Championships in Orlando, Florida. Mandatory Credit: Al Bello /Allsport
INDIANAPOLIS, UNITED STATES: US swimmer Amy Van Dyken raises her fist after winning the Women's 100 meter freestyle finals during the U.S. Olympic Team Trials at the Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis 06 March. AFP PHOTO Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Six-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Amy Van Dyken severed her spinal cord in an all-terrain vehicle accident over the weekend, and she told emergency workers she could not move her toes or feel anything touching her legs.

The 41-year-old swimmer, who goes by her married name Amy Van Dyken Rouen, was injured Friday. She was airlifted to a hospital and had surgery to stabilize her spine.

Hospital spokeswoman Alice Giedraitis didn't provide details Monday on Rouen's injuries. She said the swimmer was in good condition Monday afternoon.

A letter from the Van Dyken and Rouen families said she severed her spinal cord at the T11 vertebrae and that the broken vertebrae came within millimeters of rupturing her aorta.

"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," the letter said.

Olympic Gold Medalist Amy Van Dyken Severs Spine In Accident

A report by the Show Low Police Department said the ATV that Rouen was driving hit a curb in a restaurant parking lot and sent her over a drop-off of between 5 and 7 feet.

Rouen was found lying on the ground next to the ATV. She was strapped to a backboard and airlifted to Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn Medical Center.

A witness said he saw Rouen launch over the curb and found her unresponsive when he arrived on the scene, the report said. Rouen was not wearing a helmet at the time.

Her husband, former Denver Broncos punter Tom Rouen, told police officers he had changed the throttle mechanism on the ATV from a thumb accelerator to a twist accelerator a few days before the accident, though wasn't sure if it was a factor in the accident.

He said his wife had not been drinking alcohol that evening.

"So hard hearing about (Amy) and her horrific accident," fellow American swimmer Missy Franklin said on Twitter. "I am praying continually for you and your family."

Rouen starred at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where she became the first U.S. female athlete to win four gold medals in a single games. She captured the 50-meter freestyle and 100 butterfly and also competed on the winning relay teams in the 400 free and 400 medley.

Four years later at Sydney, she added two more golds in the 400 free and 400 medley relays before retiring from competition.

In 2003, she was among numerous prominent athletes who testified before a grand jury investigating the BALCO doping scandal. Rouen never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs during her career.

"The USA Swimming family is devastated to learn of Amy Van Dyken's unfortunate accident this weekend," the organization said in a statement. "We're happy to hear that she escaped and is now in great care. That she is already 'acting like her typical spunky, boisterous, ebullient self' shows she's on a great path."

"Amy is a champion who has proven throughout her life that she is a fighter who takes on challenges and comes out on top. We know Amy will tackle her rehabilitation with vigor and be back on her feet sooner rather than later," it said.

Rouen grew up in Denver and became a world-class swimmer despite suffering from asthma as a child and into adulthood. She swam two years at the University of Arizona and transferred to Colorado State University, where she broke the U.S. record in the 50-yard freestyle during the 1994 NCAA championships.

She has worked in television and radio after retiring from competitive swimming, and currently lives in the Phoenix area with her husband.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Amy during this difficult time, but we know she'll fight her way back to health," Arizona swimming and diving coach Rick DeMont said in a statement. "Her drive and determination helped her become one of swimming's all-time greats and we know she'll use those same attributes as she sets out on the path to recovery."


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