Van Dyken-Rouen's spirit makes her perfect choice to lead Fiesta Bowl Parade

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Fiesta Bowl headquarters in Scottsdale were filled with excitement Wednesday with the announcement that six-time Olympic gold medalist Amy Van Dyken-Rouen will be the grand marshal of this year's parade on Dec. 27.

Her continued recovery is truly a team effort. Always supporting her is her husband, Tom Rouen.

He said she never hides her disability.

"She gets out in front of people and says, 'Hey this is me and watch what I do from here!'"
 
But Rouen is haunted every day that he gave her the ATV she crashed on five months ago, severing her spine.

"It's tough," he said. "I would have much rather it have been me than her."
 
But together, Van Dyken-Rouen has made extraordinary progress toward walking again.

"She is starting to move and feel below the injury site," Rouen said. "It's been really exciting."
 
Van Dyken-Rouen trains at the Barrow Neurological Institute every day and says no matter how tough it gets she keeps pushing.

"Even those down times I still look at it and think I wasn't supposed to be sitting here," she said. "What I tell myself is, 'Get over it! Move on!'"

So what is the secret to her continued optimism even in the face of being a paraplegic?

"You know what? I had such a bad experience during my accident so now I look at it I am happy that I am here so let's make today the best day you have ever had," Van Dyken-Rouen said.

And it's just that spirit to overcome that's made her the perfect choice to lead the parade and she is proud to be a disabled grand marshal representing others with disabilities.

"I am working working harder now than I ever did training for the games and it's not for a gold medal it's for my life," she said.

Wednesday's announcement coincides with Van Dyken-Rouen's launch of her foundation, Amy's Army, which will help others who are paralyzed with everything from providing equipment so they can take a shower by themselves to scholarships to rehab hospitals.