Amy Van Dyken-Rouen

Amy Van Dyken-Rouen’s goal to walk out of hospital in August

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Six-time Olympic champion swimmer Amy Van Dyken-Rouen has felt sporadic movement a little bit below her belly button since being paralyzed in a June 6 ATV accident, giving her hope that she may regain some feeling in her legs one day.

Van Dyken-Rouen’s goal is to walk out of her Colorado hospital in August, she told TODAY’s Matt Lauer at the facility last Thursday.

“I am now paralyzed,” she told TODAY. “I am now disabled. I am now paraplegic. Although I aim to not be one day, that’s what I am.”

Van Dyken-Rouen, 41, severed her spine in the ATV accident in Arizona. Her neurosurgeon told the retired swimmer and her husband, former Denver Broncos punter Tom Rouen, to say goodbye to each other before surgery in case she didn’t survive it.

“Right now, I suck at getting out of my chair, just like I sucked at swimming [growing up],” Van Dyken-Rouen said. “This is a new challenge. I’m taking it head on. I’m not afraid of it. I welcome it. This is more than just for a gold medal. This is for my life.”

She’s undergoing intense physical therapy, from about 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, and posting updates on social media. She said she wouldn’t have use of her hands if her accident was a few vertebrae higher.

“It’s a setback, that’s all it is,” Van Dyken-Rouen said. “And then we’re going to rock and roll.”

Of the accident, Van Dyken-Rouen said she remembers eating trout earlier that day.

“I remember getting up from my seat,” she said, “And that’s where it ends.”

Van Dyken-Rouen said her husband has gone days without sleeping and eating.

“I went over it 1,000 times in my head,” Tom said of the accident. “She took off, and then I turned. One second, and she was over. It’s a tough thing to get out of your mind. She wasn’t moving. She wasn’t breathing.

“One of the things that I told her was if she wanted, if all this was too much and she wanted to go, she could go. I would understand.”

Van Dyken-Rouen took that as a challenge, a reminder of her swimming career. She won four gold medals at the 1996 Olympics and two more in 2000.

Her parents, who witnessed those Olympic races firsthand, were in the recovery room when she woke up from surgery and have been with her every day in rehab, according to TODAY.

“Dad, now I can race you in our wheelchairs,” Van Dyken-Rouen joked.

Very pregnant Alysia Montano runs at U.S. Championships

Chinese pair holds on for first world title

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Chinese pair Sui Wenjing and Han Cong needed a personal-best score by nearly five points to avoid a silver medal for a third straight year.

They delivered.

Sui and Han beat Germans Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot by 1.76 points at the world championships in Helsinki on Thursday.

They tallied the highest short-program and free-skate scores, including 150.83 in the free Thursday, despite Sui falling on a triple Salchow. Their previous best free skate was 144.28 points.

Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov earned bronze as the top three after the short program stayed that way after the free skate.

Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who had been seeking the first pairs three-peat in 39 years, finished seventh.

Americans Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim finished 10th in their second competition this season after she came back from three abdominal surgeries last summer and fall.

“I am not as confident as I was before I got sick, but I think that’s 100 percent normal when you’re off the ice for so long and you have to re-learn things and start from the bottom,” Scimeca Knierim said. “I’ve only been back at my elite level for a month or two, so I think it’s OK that my confidence is a little shaken. I’m confident that my confidence will grow.”

U.S. champions Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier were 20th in the short program, failing to qualify for the free skate.

Based on those results, the U.S. earned one entry for pairs at the PyeongChang Winter Games, according to NBC Sports research in Helsinki. The only time that fewer than two U.S. pairs competed at the Winter Olympics was at the first Winter Games in Chamonix, France, in 1924.

Just about every star pairs team dealt with serious injury problems this season.

Sui and Han missed the autumn season due to Sui’s right ankle and left foot surgeries last spring, after they squandered the 2016 World Championships short program lead.

They returned at the Four Continents Championships in February and posted then-personal-best free skate and total scores, ranking only behind Tarasova and Morozov for the season.

Savchenko, who earned her 10th career worlds medal, and Massot won both of their fall Grand Prix events but missed the Grand Prix Final after she tore an ankle ligament.

Tarasova needed 10 stitches in her left leg after slicing it on Morozov’s skate in a Wednesday practice accident, hours before the short program. Their bronze medal meant Russia avoided a three-year world pairs medal drought. Soviet and Russian pairs have never missed the worlds podium three straight years since their run of dominance started in the 1960s.

Russians Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, the only Sochi medalists competing together at worlds, missed the fall season due to Stolbova’s left leg injury. They finished fifth on Thursday.

Duhamel and Radford suffered more recent injuries. Duhamel said after the free skate she may have a stress fracture in her left foot, according to the Associated Press. Radford suffered a hip injury in the week before worlds that led to thoughts of withdrawing.

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MORE: Playing the Beatles, North Korean skaters aim for Olympics in South Korea

Pairs Results
Gold: Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 232.06
Silver: Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) — 230.30
Bronze: Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 219.03
10. Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Christopher Knierim (USA) — 202.37
20. Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier (USA) — 56.23

Playing The Beatles, North Korean skaters aim for Olympics in South Korea

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HELSINKI (AP) — North Korea’s figure skaters are aiming for the Olympics — and they’re using The Beatles.

Ryom Tae Ok and her partner Kim Ju Sik impressed observers by finishing 15th of 28 pairs at the world championships on Thursday. That’s the latest step on a road to next year’s Olympics, which would mean a politically tricky journey to South Korea.

Skating to The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” and music by Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Ryom and Kim soared above expectations in only their third major competition outside their homeland.

Star-struck Ryom said the competition was “very difficult” because she wasn’t used to the large crowd, in comments translated by a team official following Wednesday’s short program. Kim said he was “excited because this is a big competition.”

The pair gave away little more than basic personal data. They’ve skated together for two years and train in the capital Pyongyang. Skating isn’t very popular there, but they’d like to change that, they said.

Asked how they’d feel about competing at the Olympics, Kim said he and Ryom are keen to take part in “a big competition,” but didn’t say how he’d feel about visiting South Korea. A North Korean team official led the pair following a question about how they chose The Beatles’ music. Foreign cultural influence is tightly restricted by the North Korean government.

To qualify for the Olympics, Ryom and Kim will need a good performance in September to take one of four places on offer for pairs at a competition in Germany.

North Korea has a patchy record at the Winter Olympics – it won speed skating medals in 1964 and 1992, but didn’t send any athletes to the Sochi Games in 2014.

When they have gone to the Olympics, North Korean figure skaters have failed to impress. The last time the country sent a pair to the Olympics in 2006, they placed 20th and last in the short program, then withdrew.

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VIDEO: Russian pairs skater slices leg on partner’s skate