Ivo Van Damme
Personal information
Born21 February 1954
Brussels, Belgium[1]
Died29 December 1976 (aged 22)
Orange, Vaucluse, France
Height1.91 m (6 ft 3 in)
Weight76 kg (168 lb)
Event(s)800 m, 1500 m
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)800 m – 1:43.86 (1976)
1500 m – 3:36.26 (1976)

Ivo Van Damme (21 February 1954 – 29 December 1976) was a Belgian middle-distance runner.

Van Damme 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.[2]

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.[3]

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.[3] He was to marry Rita Thijs in 1977.[1] Since 1977, a memorial competition has been held in Brussels to remember him, the Memorial Van Damme, which is now the championship final for selected disciplines of the Diamond League athletics tour.

Following Van Damme's 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.


  1. ^ a b "À 22 ans, Ivo est entré dans l'Olympe". Le Soir. 30 August 2006.
  2. ^ Biografie Ivo Van Damme. sport.be
  3. ^ a b Ivo Van Damme Archived 22 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine. sports-reference.com
Post-war Belgian Olympic medalists in men's athletics