It might be hard to qualify how popular speed skating is in the Netherlands. The historical records are a bit hazy. But it's possible that the sport might have developed there around 1,000 years ago.

Dutch speed skaters are generally among the favorites at international competitions. Back home, they can often become superstar celebrities. Among recent Dutch speed sating stars was Lara van Ruijven.

Van Ruijven has died in France

Lara van Ruijven was at a training camp when she suddenly fell very ill last month. She was hospitalized in an intensive care unit in Perpignan in southwestern France. According to MSN, she was diagnosed with some sort of autoimmune disorder.

She was placed in a medically-induced coma. She reportedly had internal bleeding, including some found in her brain. Her stay at the hospital included multiple surgeries. Despite the efforts, she passed away on July 10.

Yahoo reports that her fellow Dutch speed skaters Jorien ter Mors and Suzanne Schulting expressed their sorrow. International Skating Union President Jan Dijkema, a native of the Netherlands, did as well. "The entire skating community is in shock and mourning this terrible loss," Dijkema said. He also said that the union was 'very saddened by the news of Lara's passing.'

Aside from her athletic career, the skater had been a law student at the Open University of the Netherlands.

She was born in Naaldwijk, a short distance from The Hague. Her childhood hero was Bulgarian speed skater Evgenia Radanova. Radanova was a two-time world champion and a three-time Olympic medalist. She was also a Summer Olympic athlete in cycling.

Van Ruijven was also an Olympic medalist and a world champion

Van Ruijven's first World Championship medal was a silver one. She won it as part of the Dutch team in Montreal, Quebec in 2018. It was a relay event. The distance was 3,000 meters.

The next year, the World Championships were held in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Which is the birthplace of van Ruijven's childhood idol Radanova. Van Ruijven would emerge as the gold medal winner in the women's individual 500-meter event. Despite the Netherlands' significant history in speed skating, it was a landmark accomplishment. It was the first time a Dutch woman won an individual World Championship in a short track event. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was among those who were in attendance.

She was also a two-time Olympian. The first time was at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia. She returned to the Winter Olympics in 2018, when they were held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. There, van Ruijven was part of the Dutch women's 3,000-meter relay team that won the bronze medal.

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