At the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta a young woman from Colorado State University stretched her long arms and made her dreams a reality. Amy Van Dyken, an NCAA champion and an All-American at CSU, became the first female athlete in U.S. history to win four gold medals in one Olympic games. By the time the last lap had been completed, Van Dyken's American team emerged as the dominant force in Olympic swimming, collecting 26 medals in all, 13 of which were gold. Van Dyken alone wore four golds - two as part of relay teams and two in individual events - went on to appear on the David Letterman and Rosie O'Donnell shows and had her face smiling down from Wheaties cereal boxes.
Paralympic athlete and Colorado State graduate ('07) Erin Popovich was born with achondroplasia, severely restricting the growth of her limbs. She stands just 4-foot-4 ¾ tall. At the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, she competed in six events and medaled in each: four gold and two silver. She competed previously in Athens, Greece, in 2004 and in Sydney, Australia, in 2000 and now has 14 gold medals in her career and two world records. Popovich is a native of Silverbow, Mont., but lives and trains in Fort Collins with former CSU swim coach John Mattos and Fort Collins Area Swim Team coach Bill Spahn.