Rising to Gold | Introducing Amy Van Dyken: Keynote Speaker


6-Time Olympic Gold Medalist's Will to Win


Since childhood, Amy Van Dyken’s mantra has been “Who are you to tell me what I can and cannot do?” A sixtime Olympic gold medal winner, she was already a role model for underdogs everywhere with her debilitating asthma that had her dragged from the pool during several practices and her potentially career-ending shoulder surgeries that occurred between her first and second Olympics.

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.

But it was her life-threatening spinal cord injury in an ATV accident in 2014, that put her perseverance to the test. With little hope of surviving, and none that she would ever walk again, Amy did survive, and she did walk again. “I’m alive because I’m an athlete,” she said, following her accident. However, it was her “will to win” that saved her life. The same attitude that kept her motivated as she struggled to swim a single lap of the pool, set records, and win the world championships, was the very same attitude required after the accident.

At the AAMD Education Conference & Trade Show, Amy will discuss 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. She will speak 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.

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.

Following her retirement from swimming in 2000, Van Dyken has been a disc jockey on a sports radio show, served as the sideline reporter for the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos football teams, and played in the award-winning stage-play The Vagina Monologues. Her non-profit, the Amy Van Dyken Foundation, improves the lives of people
with spinal cord injuries with initiatives such as wheels for kids and providing the latest news in spinal cord injury research.