Lara van Ruijven

Lara van Ruijven
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Lara van Ruijven, short track speed skating world champion, dies at 27

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Lara van Ruijven, a world champion short track speed skater from the Netherlands, died Friday following complications from an autoimmune disorder, according a branch of the Dutch Olympic Committee and the Dutch skating federation. She was 27.

Van Ruijven was admitted to a hospital on June 25 after feeling ill at a training camp in the French Pyrenees. Since June 29, she was in an intensive care unit, where she was in a coma. She experienced internal bleeding, including in her brain, and underwent multiple surgeries, according to Dutch press releases.

“It’s incomprehensible that she has been taken from us while in the prime of her life,” Dutch skating director Herman de Haan said in a release, according to an Associated Press translation.

Van Ruijven is the reigning world champion at 500m. She earned bronze at the PyeongChang Olympics as part of the 3000m relay.

At the 2019 Worlds, van Ruijven led the 500m nearly from start to finish. Italian Martina Valcepina caught her and made contact with van Ruijven as they crossed the finish line. That caused van Ruijven to fall as Valcepina outleaned her by half a skate blade. Upon video review, Valcepina was disqualified two minutes later for an arm block.

Van Ruijven became the first Dutch woman to win a world short track title (not counting the 3000m super final).

“My dream came true and I can’t believe it, I have to cry,” van Ruijven said that day, according to the International Skating Union.

In 2018, van Ruijven was part of a quartet that took Olympic relay bronze by winning the B final in a world-record time. Two of the four teams in the A final were disqualified, allowing the Dutch to ascend to the podium.

Short track world champion ‘fighting for her life’

Lara van Ruijven
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Lara van Ruijven, a world champion short track speed skater from the Netherlands, is “fighting for her life” with an autoimmune disorder in intensive care, a Dutch short track coach said.

Van Ruijven, 27, was hospitalized last week after feeling ill at a training camp in the French Pyrenees. Complications arose over the weekend, including internal bleeding.

The Dutch speed skating federation said Monday that her condition was stable but critical. On Wednesday, the federation said her condition deteriorated: still critical, with no signs of recovery after two surgeries.

“With incredible perseverance she has won the world title on the ice, but this battle is many times tougher,” Dutch coach Jeroen Otter, who has been with van Ruijven in the hospital said, according to a Reuters translation of a press release. “We all sympathize with her and hope with all our heart that she will come out well.”

Van Ruijven is the reigning world champion at 500m. She earned bronze at the PyeongChang Olympics as part of the 3000m relay.