Former Colorado State University swimmer Amy Van Dyken believes the record-breaking performance by Michael Phelps at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games will stand as one of the Games’ most lasting memories. Phelps broke swimmer Mark Spitz’s record of seven gold medals at one Olympics by swimming to eight gold medals in Beijing. Van Dyken said her last Olympic experience at the 2000 Sydney Games was Phelps’ first Olympic Games. "I have pictures and video of a very lost-looking Michael Phelps trying to find his way around the pool area," said Van Dyken.
Van Dyken knows a thing or two about the Olympic experience. In 1996, she burst onto the scene by winning four gold medals at the Atlanta Olympics – a first for an American woman. She captured two more gold medals during the 2000 Games in Sydney. For all her success, Van Dyken said the Olympics are about competing. "It’s not about winning, but the journey of getting to the Games."
Earlier this year, Van Dyken was one of nine athletes voted into the U.S Olympic Hall of Fame. As a first-time nominee, Van Dyken thought she wouldn’t get the public votes necessary for induction. But she did, and joined athletes such as Karch Kiraly, Joan Samuelson and David Robinson as part of the Class of 2008 that was inducted in June in Chicago, Ill. "It humbles you," Van Dyken said. "You feel so appreciated for what you did, and it gives me a special feeling to be honored and remembered."
Van Dyken came to CSU in 1994 after swimming two years at the University of Arizona. She had just gotten over a bout of mononucleosis and had no intention of competing once she arrived in Fort Collins, but that changed when she met CSU swimming Coach John Mattos. "John knew how to coach me, to get the most out of me," Van Dyken said. "He allowed me to blossom, even though I wasn’t going to swim when I first came to CSU."
Van Dyken went on to become a NCAA champion and All-American at Colorado State. She continues to assist Colorado State’s swimming program. Last fall, Van Dyken attended practices as a volunteer coach to help out Mattos, a person she says she "dearly loves."
Recently, the 35-year-old Van Dyken moved to the Phoenix area, where she lives with her husband, NFL punter Tom Rouen, and their dog. She works as a morning announcer on a Phoenix radio station. However, Van Dyken’s coaching skills are not going to waste – she’s the head swimming coach at a private, Catholic high school.
Even though she has no other family in Phoenix, Van Dyken regularly meets people with Colorado State connections. "I’m always running into someone who graduated from CSU," Van Dyken said. "There are Ram fans everywhere, and it makes me feel more at home."