CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4) – Amy Van Dyken Rouen’s former neighbors are pulling for her once again.

Just days after Rouen, a six-time Olympic gold medalist, suffered a broken back and severed her spine in an ATV accident in Arizona, her longtime friend Lynn Schock talked about the impact Rouen had on her community.

“When she went to the Olympics, it was huge for his neighborhood because everybody knew her,” Schock told CBS4.

Schock has known Rouen, 41, in the swimming community for more than 20 years. Rouen grew up in a Centennial neighborhood and trained as a member of the Willow Creek Wahoos swim team.

She said Rouen started swimming to improve her health: “Her asthma was so bad, she could hardly walk down the street without running out of air.”

From Cherry Creek High School to Colorado State University, Rouen excelled in the water. In 1996, she became the first female athlete to win four gold medals in a single Olympics. She tacked on two more golds in the 2000 games.

Rouen returned home from the ’96 games a national hero. But she never changed, Schock said, and went out of her way to talk to her fans.

“She’s just a really neat, neat lady,” she said.

Rouen married former Broncos punter Tom Rouen and moved to Scottsdale, Ariz.

“I just want Amy to get well,” Schock said. “My thoughts and prayers are with Amy and Tom.”

Rouen posted a picture from her Arizona hospital room Tuesday morning saying “Doing great today. My room is the most decorated in ICU. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers.”

Spine surgeon Shay Bess at Presbyterian/Saint Luke’s Hospital says recovery is more difficult for patients who lose all feeling after an injury. Bess says hope and determination will play a major role in Rouen’s recovery.

“The fact that she is an Olympic athlete and a tremendous champion I think that is going to play tremendously into her recovery in a speedy recovery and her willingness to succeed,” Bess said.

DR. DAVE HNIDA’S BLOG: About Amy’s Injury


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