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.
Further personal information
Sport specific information
In 2019 she was nominated for Best Female Swimmer at the world championships that year. (paralympic.org, 24 Sep 2019)
She was named the 2016 Paralympic Athlete of the Year by the Dutch Olympic Committee and Dutch Sport Federation [NOC*NSF]. (omropfryslan.nl, 22 Dec 2016)
She was named the 2016 Paralympic Athlete of the Year in Friesland, Netherlands. (hzpc-heerenveen.nl, 16 Feb 2017)
In 2016 she was named a Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau in the Netherlands. (Instagram profile, 29 Feb 2020; tvbolsward.nl, 21 Sep 2016)
She says swimming helped give her confidence in other areas of her life, like study. "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." (gehandicaptensport.nl, 09 Oct 2019; teamnl.org, 28 Sep 2019; Instagram profile, 29 Oct 2020)
At the 2019 World Championships in London, England, she won a silver medal in the S11 50m freestyle on the same day as her 19th birthday. "It went very well. It was the best birthday present ever." (omropfryslan.nl, 09 Sep 2019)
She is an ambassador for the Gehandicaptensport Netherlands foundation, for which she has taught introductory Para swimming classes. Dutch film director Jesse Bleekemolen worked on a documentary about her training in the lead-up to the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. (paralympic.org, 26 Feb 2018; telegraaf.nl, 02 Jan 2018; gehandicaptensport.nl, 09 Oct 2019)
|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|