It’s been 11 months since Olympic champion Amy Van Dyken-Rouen’s spine was severed in an all-terrain vehicle crash in Arizona, rendering her paralyzed from the waist down. Though Van Dyken-Rouen said she planned to not spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair, very few expected her to make such quick progress to the point that she is now able to stand on her own.
In a video posted to her Instagram account on Monday, Van Dyken-Rouen is shown rising from a chair with no help — though the hands of several physical therapists are inches away in case she faltered. She gets to her feet and holds it for about five seconds before sitting and eliciting a “Yay!” at the end of the video.
Van Dyken-Rouen has defied many expectations since she was paralyzed in early June 2014. She began to make small movements with her legs a few months ago and began teaching her leg muscles to move with the help of a mechanical exoskeleton in August. It’s just another hurdle the six-time Olympic gold medalist has overcome, dating back to her battles with asthma as a younger swimmer to set American records in the 50 freestyle. She won four golds at the 1996 Olympics and two more in Sydney in 2000.
Van Dyken-Rouen has had a large support group behind her, which she has dubbed “Amy’s Army.” In the months since her accident, she has started the Amy Van Dyken Foundation, which aims to help others with spinal cord injuries.