For years Suzanne Schulting, Yara van Kerkhof and Rianne de Vries formed a very close team with Lara van Ruijven, on and off the ice. The three short track players hope to honor their teammate who died this month next winter and in the winters thereafter by being successful for her.
Six years later, Schulting has no idea what she performed at her world cup debut. But she remembers that after the last match day she talked to her roommate Van Ruijven until 4.00 am. “That’s so typical of Lara, she was always chatting, with everyone.”
Van Kerkhof knew provincial fellowship Van Ruijven for almost twenty years, from the moment they first met as youth skaters at the South Holland Region. “I still have many moments when I think: I should append this to her, or ask if we can do something together,” says Van Kerkhof. “But immediately after that I think: how do I get there, that is of course not possible at all. But we got along so much together, also outside the ice, that it will take a while before that is gone.”
Together with Van Kerkhof, De Vries has made a digital folder with photos and videos by Van Ruijven. “Sometimes I wonder: did it really happen? Or was it a dream?” Said De Vries. “Fortunately, we have so many beautiful memories of Lara. I enjoy looking at photos and videos of her.”
Last Wednesday there was a last tribute for Van Ruijven at Thialf. Thursday was the funeral on the beach at Hoek van Holland. (Photo: Pro Shots)
“You are constantly reminded of Lara”
The Dutch short track players tell their story in Thialf on Monday, more than two weeks after their teammate – and girlfriend – Van Ruijven died at the age of 27 in a French hospital from the consequences of an autoimmune disease. Since Tuesday last week, the team of national coach Jeroen Otter, who was at a training camp in Font Romeu for a month, has been training in the ice stadium in Heerenveen again, but the mourning process is of course far from over.
“They are often very small things, but you are constantly reminded of Lara,” says Schulting. “She was sitting next to me in the dressing room, but her place is now empty and it will certainly remain that way for the coming year. And if the strength training groups are passed on via the app, Lara’s name is not listed. Those are the moments that you are being pressed with the nose at the facts. ”
Still, the workouts are also a good diversion and help with processing. “We are all tired, I have been sleeping a lot in recent weeks. But skating gives me a lot of energy,” says Schulting. “In addition, I still have the goal to be very good next season. We still want to become world champion and olympic champion. We can go down, but Lara wouldn’t have wanted that either.”
Sjinkie Knegt, the leader of the Dutch team, emphasizes that the processing will not be over in a few months. “There will soon be moments when we will travel again and then we will all miss Lara very much. But I think that as a team we can also get a lot of strength from it. Especially with the women, the feeling will be strong that they live for Lara want to skate very hard in the coming seasons. ”
Van Kerkhof: “The dream of becoming the first Dutch women’s team to become world champion on the relay is still there. And maybe that dream is even bigger now, because we want to do it for Lara. I hope that we will give extra strength as a team. get it. ”