PHOENIX, Arizona, June 10. SUPPORT for Olympic champion Amy Van Dyken has been overwhelmingly high since she severed her spine in an accident on Friday. But how well do people know her?
We’re happy to give you five facts you might not have known about her. If you already know these, count yourselves as an ultimate fan!
1. She holds the record for most golds won in a single Olympics by an American woman.
Though much talk in Olympic swimming conversation tended to focus on Mark Spitz’s seven golds in one Olympiad, no one had thought much about the women — until van Dyken collected her fourth gold medal swimming on the freestyle leg of the 400 medley relay at the 1996 Olympics. With that gold medal, she took home the most golds among women in the entire Olympics. Until Missy Franklin won her fourth gold medal in the 2012 Olympics, Van Dyken had stood alone in Olympic glory, but now shares the accolade with fellow Colorado native Franklin.
2. She suffers from asthma.
Van Dyken does not stand alone in her daily need of an inhaler to get through life. Swimming was the way for her to strengthen her lungs, and not only did it help her win Olympic gold, she showed just how well the sport helped her lung capacity. In taking the gold in the 50 free in Atlanta, she only breathed one time during the swim!
3. She spit in her opponents’ lanes before a race.
You might have heard the stories about this, and they are true. In the seconds before stepping onto the block before a big race, Van Dyken would put a handful of pool water in her mouth, swish it around and spit it out in an adjacent lane. Many competitors felt intimidated by it, but others were not affected. Though photos of her spitting into eventual 50 free winner Inge de Bruijn’s lane are widely circulated, the routine began many years earlier.
4. She was one of many people called to testify in the highly-publicized BALCO scandal.
Though Van Dyken had been adamantly against the use of performance-enhancing drugs, her involvement with the BALCO organization put her under suspicion. She was never suspected of using drugs during her swimming career.
5. Before the 1996 Olympics, she had never won the 100-meter butterfly at a major competition.
Van Dyken finished second to Angel Martino at the 1996 Olympic Trials in the 100 fly, securing another individual event for the home Games. In the final, Martino and China’s Liu Limin were expected to win, and it was shaping up as a battle between those two. But Martino and Liu began to pay the price of overswimming their first 50 meters, and Van Dyken charged home to take the gold medal by one hundredth of a second over Limin, and a tenth ahead of Martino.
That 100 fly race would turn out to be the last time she would swim the event. Shoulder issues kept her from swimming much butterfly in the lead-up to the 2000 Olympics, so she solely focused on freestyle.