Olympic Champ Severs Her Spine in ATV Crash

Crash almost killed swimmer Amy Van Dyken Rouen

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 10, 2014 2:55 AM CDT

(Newser) – One of America's greatest Olympic swimmers is in the hospital with a severed spine after an all-terrain vehicle accident that almost killed her. Amy Van Dyken Rouen, 41, was airlifted to the hospital after the crash in Arizona, reports the AP. She is now in good condition, but her family says the broken vertebrae she suffered in the crash came within millimeters of rupturing her aorta. At the 1996 Olympics, Van Dyken Rouen overcame chronic asthma to become the first American woman to win four gold medals at a single Olympics. She added two more golds in 2000.

After the ATV tumbled down an embankment, Van Dyken Rouen "wasn't breathing," her husband tells the Arizona Republic. "I raised up the back of her neck with my hand; she started gasping for air." He says she is now in good spirits despite the injury. "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," her family writes in a letter to Swimming World. "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."

In this Aug. 16, 2000 photo, Amy Van Dyken, right, hugs Dara Torres after Torres won the finals of the women's 50-meter freestyle at the US Olympic Swimming Trials in Indianapolis.   (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)
In this July 26, 1996 photo, Olympic gold medalist Amy Van Dyken holds her medal after winning the women's 50-meter freestyle at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.   (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)
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