The way Amy Van Dyken-Rouen used her pure physical strength to intimidate competitors was truly art.
Before the days of Michael Phelps, the world record-holding swimmer was one of the recognizable personalities that represented America. She took Atlanta’s 1996 summer games by storm, becoming the first female athlete to win four gold metals in a single year. Even receiving a crown jewel accomplishment of a being on a Wheaties box.
Van Dyken-Rouen’s life took a dramatic turn after an ATV accident in 2014, nearly killing her and leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. She underwent rehabilitation at nearby spinal cord injury leader Craig Hospital.
“I felt I could do anything. I felt I was invincible,” the former Olympic hero admitted to David Scott. “The pool used to be where I would go if I was feeling sad, or angry, or whatever. And I would stare at the black line, swim laps and be awesome.”
That feeling of comfort may never come back for Van Dyken-Rouen.
“A lot of people say get in the water to feel light— from the buoyancy— For me, I hate the water. I feel heavy. I feel constrained. I feel like I’m chocking. I feel like I want to cry. I feel like helpless and I feel like get me the hell out of here now— I hate it.”
The emotional interview with Scott is scheduled to air on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel and provides a unique look into Van Dyken-Rouen’s journey after paralysis alongside her husband, former NFL and Colorado Buffaloes punter, Tom Rouen. A story that has been called a blessing in disguise for both, who’re currently learning to overcome Amy’s new day-to-day routine together.
To see the entire interview, tune in to HBO on Tuesday, March 27 at 8:30 pm MT or on demand through the HBO GO app.