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.

Who is Canada’s greatest Olympian?

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Canada is one of few nations with more gold medals in the Winter Olympics than the Summer Olympics, though its greatest Olympian may be a dual Summer/Winter Olympian. A look at some of its legends …

Charles Hamelin
Short Track Speed Skating
Three Olympic gold medals

Canada’s most decorated male Winter Olympian with five medals (his three golds and one silver break a tie with fellow short trackers Marc Gagnon and François-Louis Tremblay, who didn’t have the individual Olympic success that Hamelin boasts). Hamelin has been competing in the world championships since 2004 and the Olympics since 2006, still going as of last season. He owns multiple world titles at each distance, and Olympic golds in three different events (one relay). Hamelin’s peak occurred on Feb. 26, 2010, when he earned Olympic 500m and 5000m relay titles in the same hour, at home in Vancouver.

Kaillie Humphries
Bobsled
Two Olympic gold medals

Largely considered the greatest female bobsledder in history. Humphries is an American now, but, as a Canadian, became the first female driver to win multiple Olympic titles in 2010 and 2014, then tacked on a bronze in 2018. She also won two world titles and four World Cup season titles, trailing only to German Sandra Kiriasis (who won one Olympic title). This all came after Humphries abandoned an Alpine skiing career at age 16 due to injuries, then failed to make the 2006 Olympic team as a brakewoman.

Kathleen Heddle/Marnie McBean
Rowing
Three Olympic gold medals

Olympic champions in three different events. Olympic medalists in four different events. The first women to earn multiple rowing golds at a single Olympics. At the turn of the millennium, McBean was the only woman to earn a medal in all six open-weight classes at a world championships or Olympics. Heddle began rowing at 18 and retired between their first and second Olympics (1992 and 1996), lured back by McBean. McBean did more at worlds (eight medals, three titles), but a back injury kept her out of the 2000 Sydney Games after Heddle retired for good.

Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir
Figure Skating
Three Olympic gold medals

Most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history, thanks in part to the addition of the team event. In 2010, Virtue and Moir became the youngest Olympic ice dance champions at 20 and 22, after first pairing in elementary school in Ontario. They dropped to silver in Sochi, then emerged from a two-year break to ascend back to the top of ice dance. Virtue and Moir earned double gold in PyeongChang, their final competition. They had such chemistry on the ice, such a magnetic romanticism, that many refused to believe they weren’t a couple off of it.

Hayley Wickenheiser
Hockey, Softball
Four Olympic gold medals

Arguably the greatest female hockey player in history. Wickenheiser competed in the first five Olympic women’s hockey tournaments — 1998 through 2014 — among a 23-year span with the national team. She was MVP of the Olympic tournament in 2002, then again in 2006. Some forget that she also made Canada’s softball team for the 2000 Sydney Games. Wickenheiser, who grew up on a Saskatchewan ranch, also attended the Philadelphia Flyers rookie training camp in 1998 and 1999.

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