Ivo Van Damme
|Olympic medal record|
|Competitor for Belgium|
|1976 Montreal||800 metres|
|1976 Montreal||1,500 metres|
Ivo Van Damme (21 February 1954 – 29 December 1976) was a Belgian middle distance runner.
Van Damme was born in Dendermonde. He played football until he was 16, but then switched to athletics. His breakthrough came in 1973, when he placed fourth in the 800 m at the European Junior Championships.
He suffered from mononucleosis the following season, but returned strong beating Roger Moens's 1955 national 800 m record. In 1976, he won the European indoor title over this distance, and was one of the favourites for a medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. He eventually ended up second in both the 800 and 1500 m, finishing behind Alberto Juantorena and John Walker, respectively.
These were his last successes, as Van Damme was killed in a car accident later that year while travelling home from Marseille in southern France. He was to marry Rita Thijs in 1977. Since 1977, a memorial competition has been held in Brussels to remember him, the Memorial van Damme. It has become one of the major track and field meetings of the season.
After his death, Belgian athletics entered a long period without athletes with international fame. Together with the athletics event named after him, this turned Van Damme into a national icon and a reminder of a glorious past and missed opportunity. It was not until the 2000s with the arrival of Kim Gevaert and Tia Hellebaut that Belgian athletics got a boost again.
- "À 22 ans, Ivo est entré dans l'Olympe". Le Soir. 30 August 2006.