Dutch Olympic short track uniforms pay tribute to Lara van Ruijven

The Dutch speed skating federation said its Olympic short track skaters will have panther-themed hearts on the sleeves of the uniform to honor the 2018 Olympic medalist and world champion. Lara van Ruijven, died in 2020.

The federation said it received special permission from the International Skating Union (ISU) and the IOC for the additional uniform patch.

Van Ruijven died of complications from an autoimmune disease on July 10, 2020. She was 27 years old.

Van Ruijven skated with goggles and the back of his helmet decorated with a panther skin theme. Her teammates called her ‘Panther Lara’, according to Dutch media.

She won bronze at the PyeongChang Olympics in the Dutch women’s 3000m relay.

At the 2019 Worlds, van Ruijven led the 500m almost from start to finish. Italian Martina Valcepina caught up with her and made contact with van Ruijven as they crossed the finish line. This caused va Ruijven falling as Valcepina passed her half a skate blade. After video review, Valcepina was disqualified two minutes later for an arm block.

Van Ruijven became the first Dutch woman to win a short track world title (not counting the 3000m super final).

“My dream has come true and I can’t believe it, I have to cry,” van Ruijven said that day, according to the International Skating Union.

The best short track skater in the world is a Dutch star Suzanne Schulting. Last season, she won all five world championship events, including the 500m. Ahead of that sprint final, van Ruijven’s final race was shown on large screens inside the arena in the Netherlands, according to the ISU.

“The first thing I really thought about was Lara,” Schulting said after her win, according to an ISU translation.

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