Liesette Bruinsma - Rio 2016

Liesette Bruinsma


Part of a group of young visually impaired swimmers to have emerged as major medal contenders in the past two years is Dutch teenager Liesette Bruinsma.

With her double gold from the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and an astonishing 18 world records broken since 2014, Bruinsma is one of the hottest properties in the women’s S11.

She has certainly put in the legwork, travelling around Europe to compete before arriving at the 2016 European Open Championships for her major international debut.

The hard work paid off and she left the competition with three titles and two more podium finishes.

Her path to Rio 2016 was indeed paved with gold and she bagged two Paralympic golds, beating more established names such as New Zealand’s Mary Fisher and Germany’s Daniela Schulte.



Impairment information

Type of Impairment
Vision impairment
Origin of Impairment
S11, SB11, SM11

Further personal information

Sneek, NED
Athlete, Student
Dutch, English
Higher education
Psychology - Open University: Netherlands

Sport specific information

When and where did you begin this sport?
She took up outdoor swimming at age 10 in Wommels, Netherlands.
Why this sport?
"I started in the outdoor swimming pool in Wommels, where I lived. I also wanted to swim in the winter, so I went with a neighbour to a swimming club in Bolsward. At age 11 I swam my first competitions. I didn't have a [Para swimming] classification at the time, so I just swam with the regular swimmers. Two years later I received a classification and then the swimming association contacted me. That's how I ended up in the Paralympic selection."
Club / Team
HZ & PC Heerenveen: Netherlands
Name of coach
Sander Nijhuis [national], NED; Bram Dekker [national], NED

International debut

Competing for

General interest

Memorable sporting achievement
Winning gold in the S11 400m freestyle at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, one day after her 16th birthday. "It's the best 'gift' I have received so far." (, 15 Sep 2020)
Hero / Idol
Dutch Para swimmer Lisette Teunissen. (, 01 Jan 2015)
Sporting philosophy / motto
"I think I can perform under pressure. Even if you are the best in the world, or you have already won gold medals, it is still important to develop yourself - because the competition is hot on your heels. There are always areas for improvement. You have to keep focusing on that." (, 28 Sep 2019)
Awards and honours
She was named the 2016 Paralympic Athlete of the Year by the Dutch Olympic Committee and Dutch Sport Federation [NOC*NSF]. (, 22 Dec 2016)

She was named the 2016 Paralympic Athlete of the Year in Friesland, Netherlands. (, 16 Feb 2017)

In 2016 she was named a Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau in the Netherlands. (Instagram profile, 29 Feb 2020;, 21 Sep 2016)
Other information
Swimming has helped give her confidence in other areas of her life. "Through swimming, I learned to try new things. I was not good at English in high school, but by doing it more often and indicating that I needed extra guidance, I was able to pass my exams. I am now studying psychology, which is largely in English, at the Open University. I can do that at my own pace and mostly online. It is a lot slower than normal, but I like doing something besides my sport. I like to learn." (Instagram profile, 29 Oct 2020;, 09 Oct 2019;, 28 Sep 2019)

She has served as an ambassador for the Gehandicaptensport Netherlands foundation, teaching introductory Para swimming classes as part of her role. Dutch film director Jesse Bleekemolen worked on a documentary about her training in the lead-up to the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. (, 09 Oct 2019;, 26 Feb 2018;, 02 Jan 2018)


Unit Date Rank
Rio 2016 Paralympic Games (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's 100 m Backstroke S11 Heat 1 2016-09-09 7
Women's 400 m Freestyle S11 Heat 2 2016-09-10 1
Women's 400 m Freestyle S11 Final Round 2016-09-10 1
Women's 50 m Freestyle S11 Final Round 2016-09-12 3
Women's 50 m Freestyle S11 Heat 3 2016-09-12 2
Women's 100 m Breaststroke SB11 Final Round 2016-09-13 2
Women's 100 m Freestyle S11 Heat 2 2016-09-15 1
Women's 100 m Freestyle S11 Final Round 2016-09-15 3
Women's 200 m Individual Medley SM11 Heat 2 2016-09-16 1
Women's 200 m Individual Medley SM11 Final Round 2016-09-16 1