In 2014, Amy Van Dyken-Rouen’s life changed forever. She severed her spine in an ATV accident, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. A six-time Olympic gold medalist, the former swimmer did not let her injury dampen her competitive spirit.
In an interview with Today, Van Dyken-Rouen detailed her new sporting interest: downhill skiing. She also cruised down the slopes in Breckenridge. Thanks to one ski on a sled and additional blades on each of her poles, she is able to work her way down the mountain.
“It’s like freedom. A lot of people who are injured say that getting in the swimming pool is liberating and free for them. For me, that’s where I feel the most paralyzed,” Van Dyken-Rouen told Today. “This to me is freedom.”
A Denver native, Van Dyken-Rouen spent her last two years of college at Colorado State. On Tuesday, the Rams posted a message of encouragement for the alumnus.
— Colorado State Univ (@ColoradoStateU) April 11, 2017
— CSU Alumni Assoc. (@CSUAlumni) April 11, 2017
Van Dyken-Rouen has had numerous surgeries, but has still maintained her positive attitude. She has had some progress in her recovery as well, feeling reflexes in her knees and walking with the assistance of an exo-skeleton. She also created a foundation with her husband, former Denver Broncos punter Tom Rouen called Amy’s Army, which assists people dealing with spinal cord injuries. By hitting the slopes, she hopes to inspire others.
“You know, when they say, ‘You’ll never be able?’ No. That’s again a hurdle or a wall that you’re going to either go over or around or break under it or do whatever to get through it,” she told Today. “For people who are wondering if they can, stop wondering and get out there and do it.”
Here is Today’s video of the experience: