Amy Van Dyken is an Olympic champion swimmer with six gold medals to her name. At the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, Van Dyken became the first American female athlete in history to win four gold medals in a single Olympic games. She won gold in the 50 meter free, 100 meter butterfly, 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay and the 4 x 100 meter medley relay. After experiencing much athletic success, in June of 2014, tragedy struck when Van Dyken was injured in an ATV accident and severed her spinal cord, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. Although she endured grueling days in rehabilitation, she stayed positive and fought through the hardships, inspiring others to stay strong and accomplish their goals.
Following a doctor's advice, Van Dyken began swimming at the age of six in an effort to relieve childhood asthma. At eleven, she was still unable to swim the length of a pool. When she finally made it, Van Dyken knew she had a strong "will to win." That strength made her a star in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, despite the fact that breathing difficulties limited her to only about 65% of normal lung capacity.
At the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, Van Dyken won two gold medals in the 4X100 Medley Relay and the 4X100 Freestyle Relay, and placed 4th in the 50 meter freestyle. In addition to her Olympic accomplishments, she won several world titles and set numerous American and world records. In 2007, she was the only American swimmer to be inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame's Class of 2007. Van Dyken was also inducted to the Olympic Hall of Fame in July 2008.
Amy Van Dyken's success in swimming won her a wide variety of awards and accolades. An instant celebrity, she was featured on cover of a Wheaties box and underwater in a Milk Industry ad, photographed by Annie Liebowitz. Van Dyken was named the Associated Press "Female Athlete of the Year", USOC "Sports Woman of the Year," ESPN "ESPY Female Athlete of the Year," the Women's Sports Foundation's "Sports Woman of the Year" and USA Swimming's "Swimmer of the Year." She was also featured as one of Glamour magazine's "Top 10 Women of the Year", named one of "25 Most Influential Females in Sport" by Women's Sports and Fitness magazine and received the ARETE "Courage in Sports" award.
Van Dyken is retired from swimming and lives with her husband, former NFL punter Tom Rouen, in Arizona. Since her retirement, Van Dyken has been a disc jockey on a sports radio show in Arizona, served as the side-line reporter for the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos football teams, and even played in the award-winning stage-play the Vagina Monologues. She speaks to audiences about her experiences as a world class athlete and how she developed the "will to win" through perseverance despite the obstacles she faced throughout her career.
Holding My Breath: An Asthmatic's Story of Winning Olympic Gold
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