Olympic medalist left paralyzed after severing her spine praises the CrossFit hero who rushed to …

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By Jessica Jerreat


Olympic gold medalist Amy Van Dyken-Rouen, who severed her spinal cord in an accident last week, has praised a CrossFit athlete who came to her aid.


Swimmer Dyken Rouen, who won six gold medals for the U.S., was injured while riding an all-terrain vehicle in Arizona on June 6.


In a lucky coincidence,  DJ Brimhall, who had been competing at the same event as her earlier in the day, was able to rush to her aid.


The athlete and Arizona firefighter was able to apply his medical training to care for 41-year-old Dyken-Rouen while they waited for an ambulance. 


One week after the accident, the pair were reunited at Dyken-Rouen’s hospital bedside in Scottsdale.


After posting their picture on Instagram, Dyken-Rouen wrote: ‘I did Crossfit with this man the day of my accident. Later that night HE saved my life as my first responder. #myangel.’


It is still not clear if the former swimmer, who made history in 1996 when she became the first American woman to win four gold medals at one Games, will be permanently paralyzed.


She had been riding an ATV across a parking lot in Torreon Golf Club when it hit a curb and propelled her over the front of the vehicle and down an embankment.


Brimhall, who trains others for CrossFit – an intense fitness program often used by police and military specialists – had been at the same sporting event as Dyken-Rouen earlier in the day.


The 29-year-old, who also serves as a firefighter, stayed with her until she could be airlifted to hospital. 


He has been praised widely by the swimmer and her fans, after she posted their picture online.


After a friend of Brimhall’s named him, Dyken-Rouen added: ‘I wasn’t going to give his name for privacy sake, but DJ Brimhall is not only an angel, he it one of the top Crossfitters in the country.’


Her husband, former Denver Broncos punter Tom Rouen thinks the ATV rolled over his wife after going down an embankment.


‘She wasn’t breathing. I raised up the back of her neck with my hand; she started gasping for air,’ he told the Denver Post.


Despite her devastating injuries, Dyken-Rouen is applying the same fighting spirit that earned her numerous Olympic wins to her recovery.


She has posted several updates about her progress on social media sites and, according to her husband, is in good spirits.


A statement from her family, issued shortly after the accident, said: ‘Amy awoke within hours of surgery acting like her typical spunky, boisterous, ebullient self and has spent the last 24 hours entertaining her family and her medical staff in the ICU.’


Dyken-Rouen is due to be moved to a hospital that specialized in spinal cord injuries and is closer to her Colorado home.

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