World champion short-track speed skater Lara van Ruijven died on Friday as a result of complications from an autoimmune reaction, the Netherlands skating association said. Van Ruijven was 27.
She died in a hospital in the French city of Perpignan, where she had been in a critical condition for days.She last year became the first Dutch short track skater to win a world title when she won the 500-meter title in Sofia, Bulgaria.
“What terrible news we’ve just received. The loss will be felt in the sport world,” national coach Jeroen Otter said.
Herman de Haan, director of the national skating body, added: “It’s incomprehensible that she has been taken from us while in the prime of her life.”
World Champion speed skater Lara van Ruijven dies at age 27
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.