COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – Fans and friends are already offering their support for Amy Van Dyken Rouen, including one man who used to swim on the same swimming club as Van Dyken Rouen.
Van Dyken Rouen suffered a broken back and severed her spine in an ATV accident in Arizona last weekend.
Dave Denniston knows what Van Dyken Rouen is going through, and he knows she will meet the challenge head on.
“She’ll be fine. I just know she’ll be fine,” Denniston told CBS4’s Kathy Walsh.
Denniston has no doubt about the fight in his friend.
“She has 65 percent lung capacity and she won four gold medals,” he said.
Denniston and Van Dyken Rouen both swam as teenagers for the Greenwood Tiger Sharks. That was when Van Dyken Rouen was headed for the Olympics and Denniston could still walk.
“After the Olympic trials in 2004 I broke my back,” he said.
Denniston was a world record holder, a 15-time All-American, but he didn’t make the Olympics. Then he hit a tree while sledding.
“I was just grateful to be alive.”
Denniston was paralyzed, but he got back in the pool. He became a paralympian and then head coach. Still, hearing about Van Dyken Rouen’s accident from her sister threw him.
“It was really something almost surreal for me because I started crying and I couldn’t understand it. I was just baffled and I was like, ‘Wait a minute, you’re in this situation, you didn’t want people crying for you,’ ” Denniston said.
Van Dyken Rouen was Denniston’s inspiration. Now he will be hers.
“Literally hitting the tree knocked some sense into me to where I was like, ‘Let’s look at some of these positive things and really embrace the positive things.’ ”
Van Dyken Rouen’s upbeat tweets already show she’s focused on the future with her family and friends by her side.
“I sent her a message this morning. I said, ‘Are you feeling loved yet? Welcome to the best part of this injury. The best part is the love and support will never go away, especially from those of us who call you friend.’ ”
Van Dyken Rouen is getting well wishes from all over the world. Denniston says her biggest challenge may be helping her family get through it. But he believes Van Dyken Rouen will lead a remarkable life and change a lot of people’s views of disability and paralysis.