Memorial laps for speed skater Van Ruijven, who died at 27
Two touching memorials were held in honor of short track speed skating champion Lara van Ruijven, who died this month at the age of 27. A hearse carrying her body was driven around the skating track at the Thialf ice arena in Heerenveen on Wednesday night, and the following day it drove two final laps around De Uithof, her first ice track.
A private funeral was expected to be held on Thursday.
Van Ruijven died in France on July 10 from an autoimmune disease. She had entered a hospital in Perpignan, France after experiencing a series of health issues while staying with teammates nearby in Font Romeu. She could not recover from several complications, including cerebral hemorrhage, and died a little more than two weeks after she was first admitted to the medical center.
“At the beginning of the evening, Lara died in front of her loved ones,” the KNSB skating association said when it announced her death.
During the memorials in Heerenveen and at De Uithof in The Hague, the hearse carrying Van Ruijven was received first by silence, and then by applause. Hundreds of people, including current and former skaters, friends, and members of the skating clubs showed up to bid her farewell.
Van Ruijven was the first Dutch woman to take home a gold medal at the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships. She did this in 2019 with a win in the 500 meter individual race. Van Ruijven also took the bronze medal in the 3,000 meter relay at the 2018 Winter Olympics.