Marlou van Rhijn of Netherlands celebrates after winning gold in the Womens 200m T44 final at the London 2017 World Para Athletics Championships.

Marlou van Rhijn

Athletics | Swimming

Van Rhijn’s first major international appearance was at the 2012 European Championships in her home country where she took gold in the 100m and 200m before going on to even greater glory at the London 2012 Games.

In the 100m heats she broke the T43 world record then in the final had to settle for silver behind France’s T44 sprinter Marie-Amelie le Fur.

She was not to be defeated in the 200m however and stormed to gold in a T43 world record time of 26.18.

As a result of her impressive achievements in 2012 she was crowned disabled athlete of the year 2012 in the Netherlands in a ceremony broadcast live on Dutch television.

2013 continued with similar success as van Rhijn, a double-leg amputee, lowered her 100m world record further in the lead-up to the World Championships. She also wrote her name in to the history books with the world’s fastest 400m time.

Full of confidence in Lyon, France, she won both the 100m (13.02) and 200m (26.74) world titles.

Van Rhijn continued to top the podium in 2014, retaining her 100m and 200m European titles in Swansea, Great Britain. She also won 400m T44 bronze.

The Dutch sprinter – nicknamed ‘Blade Babe’ –was in blistering form in 2015 lowering her own 100m and 200m world records no fewer than three times each.

She safely retained her two world titles at the 2015 World Championships in Doha, Qatar, sprinting to a world record 12.80 in the 100m despite stiff competition from the likes of Le Fur and Germany’s Irmgard Bensusan.

Success continued in 2016 with another 100m world record at the Nottwil Grand Prix in Switzerland, then at Rio 2016 she triumphed in both the 100m and 200m T44.

There was a rare defeat for van Rhijn in 2017 however, as the Dutch sprinter lost her 100m world title to Great Britain’s Sophie Kamlish, but there was no doubting van Rhijn in the 200m T44 as she stormed to gold in championship record time (26.02).


Impairment information

Type of Impairment
Limb deficiency
Origin of Impairment

Further personal information

Dutch, English
Higher education
Economics - Johan Cruyff University: Amsterdam, NED

Sport specific information

When and where did you begin this sport?
She took up Para athletics in 2010.
Why this sport?
She competed in Para swimming internationally until 2009, when she quit the sport to focus on studying. A year later she received a phone call from Guido Bonsen, a national Para athletics coach, who told her that her physical impairment and athletic ability made her suited to sprinting. She was initially hesitant, but after one training session she was hooked. "From the moment I tried on the blades I was sold. The sense of speed is awesome."

General interest

Hero / Idol
US sprinter Allyson Felix, US tennis player Serena Williams. (, 07 Jun 2015; NPC media guide, 20 Oct 2015)
Sporting philosophy / motto
"I'm not an athlete at a high level because I feel like I have to prove myself. I do it simply because I enjoy it." (, 09 Jan 2013)
Awards and honours
She was named the 2016 Dutch Women of the Year by Harper's Bazaar magazine. (, 13 Dec 2016)

She was named the 2016 Female Athlete of the Year at the Purmerend Sports Awards in the Netherlands. (, 01 May 2017)

She was named the 2016 Para Athlete of the Year by the Dutch Athletics Federation. (, 12 Feb 2017)

She was the flag bearer for the Netherlands at the opening ceremony of the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. (, 06 Sep 2016)

She was named Sportswoman of the Year in 2012 and 2015 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (, 15 Nov 2015;, 17 Dec 2012)

She won the 2013 International Paralympic Committee [IPC] Best Female Games Debut award for her performance at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. (, 23 Nov 2013)

She was named the 2012 and 2013 Paralympic Athlete of the Year by the Netherlands Olympic Committee [NOC]. (, 17 Dec 2013)

In 2012 she was appointed Knight of the Order of Orange Nassau after winning gold at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. (, 01 Feb 2013)
Other sports
She competed in Para swimming until 2009, representing the Netherlands at the 2006 World Championships in Durban, South Africa. (, 18 Dec 2012;, 08 Sep 2012)
To compete at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. (, 01 May 2017)
She was born with a physical impairment in both legs. She is now a double below-knee amputee, having had her first amputation at age five and her second at age 11. (, 18 May 2015;, 25 Aug 2012;, 2012)
Other information
In October 2017 she launched Project Blade, an initiative to make running blades more accessible and encourage children with impairments to take up sport. "The joy of running is the same whether you need a pair of shoes or bionic legs to run. If we can educate the wider community about disability sport as well as giving children and young adults the tools they need to participate then I believe we will see numbers go up." (, 19 Oct 2017;, 18 Oct 2017; Facebook profile, 18 Oct 2017)

In December 2016 she began training under the guidance of British coach Keith Antoine. "Working towards London 2017 and Tokyo 2020 I wanted to improve and have a coach who not only had an understanding of Para athletics, but who worked with athletes who had already won medals. I felt like I was missing something in the last two years because I felt I could go way faster, I've improved but I felt like I could improve more. Then Keith explained to me his ways of training and it just clicked. I thought, 'This is what I was missing.'" (, 01 May 2017)

In September 2016 she was the subject of the Dutch television documentary Blade Babe, which focused on her life and preparations ahead of the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. In 2016 she was a contestant on the Dutch television show Maestro, which featured celebrities learning to conduct a musical orchestra. (, 08 Sep 2016;, 02 Jul 2016)


Unit Date Rank
IPC Swimming World Championships Durban 2006 (Durban, South Africa)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's 100 m Freestyle S9 Heats 24
Women's 100 m Backstroke S9 Heats 21
Women's 4x100 m Freestyle 34 pts Final Round 6
Women's 400 m Freestyle S9 Heats 19
London 2012 Paralympic Games (London, Great Britain)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's 100 m T44 Heat 2 2012-09-01 1
Women's 100 m T44 Final Round 2012-09-02 2
Women's 200 m T44 Heat 1 2012-09-05 1
Women's 200 m T44 Final Round 2012-09-06 1
IPC Athletics World Championships (Lyon, France)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's 100 m T44 Semifinal 2 2013-07-24 2
Women's 100 m T44 Final 1 2013-07-25 1
Women's 200 m T44 Final 1 2013-07-27 1
IPC Athletics 2015 World Championships (Doha, Qatar)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's 200 m T44 Heat 2 2015-10-23 1
Women's 200 m T44 Final 1 2015-10-24 1
Women's 100 m T44 Heat 2 2015-10-29 1
Women's 100 m T44 Final 1 2015-10-29 1
Rio 2016 Paralympic Games (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's 200 m T44 Heat 2 2016-09-14 1
Women's 200 m T44 Final Round 2016-09-15 1
Women's 100 m T44 Final Round 2016-09-17 1
Women's 100 m T44 Heat 2 2016-09-17 1
World Para Athletics Championships London 2017 (London, Great Britain)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's 100 m T44 Final 1 2017-07-17 2
Women's 100 m T44 Heat 2 2017-07-17 2
Women's 200 m T44 Heat 1 2017-07-22 1
Women's 200 m T44 Final 1 2017-07-23 1