Then: Diagnosed at 18 months with asthma, Amy Van Dyken was encouraged by her doctor to take up swimming when she was six years old. This twist of fate led her to not just swim competitively but to six Olympic gold medals. At the age of 23, at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, Amy became the first U.S. woman to win four gold medals at one Olympics. She graced the Wheaties box, posed for a “got milk?” ad, took three 1998 World Champion medals, and won two more Olympic gold medals in 2000, after which she immediately retired. Although a shoulder injury played a part, Amy had accomplished her swimming goals. “I’d gone to two Olympics. I got six gold medals. I had world records, American records,” she explains. Amy shifted her focus to Ironman triathlons, but a knee injury in 2000 turned her toward sprint triathlons for charity.
Now: At age 35, Amy splits her time between homes in Colorado, Arizona, and Washington with husband and NFL punter, Tom Rouen. Though her day job is sports broadcasting, her passion is charity work. She is involved in various asthma-related nonprofits as well as the Make-A-Wish Foundation. She and dog Georgia are the “spokesgirls” for Paws with a Cause, a foundation that trains and places hearing, assistance, and seizure dogs. Amy also sponsors an event that benefits Colorado Youth Outdoors, an organization started by Tom’s brother-in-law, Bob Hewson, that gets high school students outside. Bob approached Amy and Tom to do a “big-money fundraiser.” “Shooting sporting clays is a part of the curriculum of Colorado Youth Outdoors,” says Amy, “so we thought, What better thing to do than that?” The Tom Rouen and Amy Van Dyken Celebrity Shoot Out was created and is so popular after seven years that they have to turn down celebrities who want to participate. Amy was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in June. “To be picked among all the Olympians who have done so many amazing things is one of the most touching, heartwarming, and surreal feelings ever.” But Amy is most proud of her charity work. “I really feel that I wasn’t given the gift that I was given and helped out by so many people just to let it go. You’ve got to pay it forward.”