Jeroen Otter has called a nightmare the past two weeks. The national coach of the Dutch short trackers had to say goodbye to his pupil Lara van Ruijven on Friday, who died at the age of 27 in a French hospital from the consequences of an autoimmune disease.
"You have to put it this way: it becomes cloudy, cloudier and eventually it becomes jet, jet black. No more light beam has come through," Otter told NOS on Sunday . "It is a nightmare for every coach, that you travel with 21 men to a training camp and go back with 20. That is unimaginable."
Van Ruijven was admitted to the hospital on 25 June during an altitude internship in Font Romeu, France. There it appeared that the native of South Holland was struggling with an immune system disorder, which led to serious complications. Multiple operations did not improve, after which it became clear on Friday that the world champion in the 500 meters would no longer heal.
"There was a 27-year-old woman there, in the strength of her life. Then you think: she should have lived sixty, seventy years. That is terrible," said Otter, who worked with Van Ruijven for a decade. "She was such a humble woman, I really had to kick her ass every now and then to put herself more central. She had so much trouble with that, she actually felt sorry that she would beat another."
That character made Van Ruijven a very popular member of the close-knit Dutch short track team. "She didn't have any tattoos, but everyone who saw her for a day saw positivism on her forehead, so to speak," says Otter.
"In the end she focused on top sport because that was where her heart lay. And she experienced some wonderful things, which we also told our athletes. Her life was too short, but at least she was able to do what she really really wanted to do. "
See also: Van Ruijven did not like spotlights, but did write history