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Amy Van Dyken-Rouen        

Six-Time Olympic Gold Medalist Swimmer

Six-time Olympic gold medal champion swimmer Amy Van Dyken made history as the most successful athlete at the ’96 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, becoming the first American female athlete to win four gold medals in a single Olympic games. But after a devastating ATV accident in 2014, Van Dyken was paralyzed from the waist down. Just months later, she defied doctors’ expectations and achieved her goal when she walked again, with braces and a walker.

A frequent speaker to nonprofit organizations and businesses across the country, Van Dyken is an encouraging symbol of strength and tenacity, and a role model for individuals with debilitating injuries and ailments. Her talk at ESPN’s Women + Sports Summit reflects on her experiences as a world-class athlete and paraplegic and inspires others to develop their own “will to win" to accomplish their goals.

Following a doctor's advice, Van Dyken began swimming at the age of six in an effort to relieve her asthma and developed a strong “will to win” that made her a star in the ‘96 Games, despite competing with about 65% of normal lung capacity. After the games in Atlanta, Van Dyken went on to win two more medals in Sydney, Australia in 2000, earning the distinction of being one of the few Olympians whose medals are all gold. She was the only American swimmer to be inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2007 and was inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame in 2008.

In addition to her Olympic accomplishments, Van Dyken won several world titles and set numerous American and world records. Her success in swimming made her an instant celebrity and earned her many awards and accolades, including her feature on a Wheaties cereal box and in the popular “Got Milk” ad campaign. She was named an Associated Press “Female Athlete of the Year,” an ESPN “ESPY Female Athlete of the Year,” and one of the “25 Most Influential Females in Sport” by Women's Sports and Fitness magazine.

Speech Topics

Reaching for the Gold: From Asthma to the Olympics & Beyond

Olympian Amy Van Dyken has made a career out of beating the odds, both in and out of the pool. At 18 months old, she was diagnosed with three different kinds of asthma that left her with only 65% normal lung capacity. At the recommendation of her doctor, she joined a swim team and stayed at it for years, despite her inability to finish a single length of the pool and her debilitating asthma attacks. But in 1996, she made the Olympic team and won four Gold medals. The record-breaking swimmer then fought a shoulder injury and two operations to win a pair of gold medals for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.

In 2014, Van Dyken-Rouen suffered an ATV accident that severed her spine and was in need of surgery with only a 20% chance of survival. Even though the surgery was a success, Van Dyken was still paralyzed from the waist down. Her life-changing experience would leave many devastated and depressed. But Van Dyken, grateful for her second chance, decided to dedicate her new life to inspiring others to grasp every moment and to not complain; teaching that this life is a gift and every day should be met with an air of gratitude. In “Reaching for Gold,” Amy shares her personal story of overcoming adversity and keeping a good attitude no matter the odds, and inspires audiences to look past their limits and reach for ther own version of gold.

The Will to Win

In “The Will to Win,” Amy Van Dyken discusses the need for relentless motivation and overcoming the limits and restraints others put on you – whether it be a coach, a friend, an adversary, yourself or even your own body. Van Dyken speaks plainly on both the physical and emotional obstacles that she has endured, as well as the emotional coming to terms with her new life and learning to embrace it.

Overcoming Injury

Lessons in Motivation from an Olympic Gold Medalist


The Fiesta Bowl announced today that swimming legend Amy Van Dyken-Rouen will be the Grand Marshal of the 44th Annual National Bank of Arizona Fiesta Bowl Parade on December 27, 2014.
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