For the News-Sun
Six-time Olympic gold-medal swimmer Amy Van Dyken will be the next speaker in the JF Maddox Foundation Jack Maddox Distinguished Lecture Series.
The lecture is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 23 at the University of the Southwest, Jack and Mabel Maddox Student Life Center. After the lecture, Van Dyken will be available for photos. Ticket information can be found on Eventbrite or by visiting jfmaddox.org.
Van Dyken made history as the most successful athlete at the ’96 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Ga., becoming the first American female athlete to win four gold medals in a single Olympic games.
But after a devastating ATV accident in 2014, Van Dyken was paralyzed from the waist down. Just months later, she defied doctors’ expectations and achieved her goal when she walked again, with braces and a walker.
A frequent speaker to nonprofit organizations and businesses across the country, Van Dyken is an encouraging symbol of strength and tenacity, and a role model for individuals with debilitating injuries and ailments. Her talk at ESPN’s Women + Sports Summit reflects on her experiences as a world-class athlete and paraplegic and inspires others to develop their own “will to win” to accomplish their goals.
“We are excited to host our distinguished lecture series with Amy on the eve of the city’s 3×3 wheelchair basketball tournament and know that her story of strength and resilience will inspire anyone who hears it to overcome challenges in their own lives,” said TJ Parks, interim CEO, JF Maddox Foundation. “Her experience as a gold medal athlete and now as an advocate for people with spinal cord injuries is incredible and we hope everyone in the community will come out and hear her speak.”
Following a doctor’s advice, Van Dyken began swimming at the age of 6 in an effort to relieve her asthma and developed a strong “will to win” that made her a star in the ‘96 Games, despite competing with about 65 percent of normal lung capacity.
After the games in Atlanta, Van Dyken went on to win two more medals in Sydney, Australia in 2000, earning the distinction of being one of the few Olympians whose medals are all gold.
She was the only American swimmer to be inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2007 and was inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame in 2008.
In addition to her Olympic accomplishments, Van Dyken won several world titles and set numerous American and world records.
Her success in swimming made her an instant celebrity and earned her many awards and accolades, including her feature on a Wheaties cereal box and in the popular “Got Milk” ad campaign. She was named an Associated Press “Female Athlete of the Year,” an ESPN “ESPY Female Athlete of the Year,” and one of the “25 Most Influential Females in Sport” by Women’s Sports and Fitness magazine.
Following her retirement from swimming in 2000, Van Dyken has been a disc jockey on a sports radio show, served as the sideline reporter for the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos football teams, and played in the award-winning stage-play The Vagina Monologues.
Her non-profit, the Amy Van Dyken Foundation, improves the lives of people with spinal cord injuries with initiatives such as wheels for kids and providing the latest news in spinal cord injury research.
Since 1989, the JF Maddox Foundation and University of the Southwest have partnered to host the Jack Maddox Distinguished Lecture Series.
The series aims to contribute to the quality of life in Lea County, New Mexico, and the surrounding area by providing nationally recognized speakers for intellectual stimulation and entertainment. Past speakers from the lecture series include Former First Lady Laura Bush, Mike Rowe, and General Colin Powell.
For additional information on the Jack Maddox Distinguished Lecture Series, please visit jfmaddox.org or call 575-393-6338.