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

Lara van Ruijven

DORDRECHT, NETHERLANDS - FEBRUARY 15: Lara van Ruijven of The Netherlands during the ISU World Cup Short Track at the Sportboulevard on February 15, 2020 in Dordrecht Netherlands (Photo by Soccrates/Getty Images)

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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 to 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.