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SCOTTSDALE — Six-time Olympic gold medalist Amy Van Dyken severed her spine in an all-terrain vehicle accident over the weekend, and told emergency workers she could not move her toes or feel anything touching her legs.
The 41-year-old swimmer, a former Arizona Wildcat who goes by her married name 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.
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.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Amy during this difficult time, but we know she’ll fight her way back to health,” said UA swimming and diving coach Rick DeMont.
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 between 1.5 to 2 meters.
Rouen was found lying on the ground next to the ATV. She was strapped to a backboard and airlifted to Scottsdale 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.
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.
Four years later at Sydney, she added two more golds in the 400 free and 400 medley relays before retiring from competition.
Rouen attended UA for two years before transferring to Colorado State.
“We were saddened to hear of Amy’s accident and injuries and our prayers go out to her and her family,” said UA AD Greg Byrne.
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