World champion Dutch speed skater Lara van Ruijven has died at 27 after battling an autoimmune disorder, the Royal Dutch Skating Federation (KNSB) said on Friday.
The 27-year-old short track skater, who won a bronze medal at the 2018 Olympics, was admitted to hospital in Perpignan, France last month after falling ill during a training camp.
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She was placed in intensive care and kept in an artificial coma but despite undergoing surgery, her health continued to deteriorate.
“What horrible news we've just received. Her loss will be felt through the whole sporting world,” said Dutch short track coach Jeroen Otter.
“It is an enormous blow for a close-knit group.
“We've missed her over the last two weeks but today's news is so definite and surreal.”
Van Ruijven won the 500 metres title at the world championships in Sofia last year, and an Olympic bronze medal in the 3000m relay at 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
“We feel the pain for her family and the short track team,” said KNSB director Herman de Haan.
“This is hard to comprehend. On behalf of KNSB I want to wish Lara's friends and family strength with dealing with this great loss.”
Tributes are flooding in on social media after the devastating news.
27 year old shorttrack speedskating champion Lara van Ruijven died today. I am in absolute shock. So terrible! She was a great person and someone who gave everything for her sport. #LaravanRuijven pic.twitter.com/0NvOv4U4LX— peter (@braverock76) July 10, 2020
Such sad news, #laravanruijven hast lost her life today, my condolences, thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends, with the short track team of NL and the short track community💔💔💔 pic.twitter.com/YyVl6aRZCU— hannah-louise (@Hannahl05281954) July 10, 2020
Double tragedy for Winter Olympics community
Van Ruijven’s death comes just three days after Australian Winter Olympics star Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin drowned while spearfishing on the Gold Coast.
Pullin was dragged from the water unconscious around 10.40am on Wednesday and paramedics spent 45 minutes trying to revive him.
An investigation into his death is underway, with a report to be prepared for the coroner, says Gold Coast District Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler.
He said the 32-year-old's family would be kept informed of their investigation.
“It was an extremely tragic set of circumstances and our hearts go out to Alex's family and friends and loved ones,” he said.
“We had specialist police attend the scene; we had our police dive squad attend that scene.
“We will prepare a report for the coroner in due course and we will engage with the family to keep them up to date.”
He said they were trying to determine if Pullin's death was preventable.
“We want to determine why it happened, whether there are underlying medical conditions and whether there has been a miscalculation by someone or something,” Supt Wheeler said.
“And what we want to do is give closure to the family, give the family answers and really important to see there is anything systemic to prevent it from happening again.”
Pullin was the flag-bearer for Australia at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Known affectionately as Chumpy, Pullin won world championship titles in 2011 and 2013, and nine World Cup gold medals.