She started running in Suriname but after her National Olympic Committee failed to send her to the 1984 Summer Olympics. She decided to leave the country and went to train in the Netherlands. She gradually improved, competed in the 800 metres at the 1988 Summer Olympics, and broke into the highest echelons of her event in 1991, when she reached the finals of both 800 m and 1500 m at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Tokyo, finishing in fifth and ninth places respectively.
She won a silver medal at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics in 1995 behind Ana Quirot. This was in addition to the bronze medal she had already achieved earlier that year at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Athletics. These medals were the first to be won by a South American female athlete in world championship competition. She also won a bronze medal at the 2001 world outdoor championships, but has never managed to reach an Olympic final. At the 1992 Summer Olympics she set a record of sorts by recording the fastest ever non-qualifying time in an 800 m semi final. She has also won many medals at the Pan-American Games and Central American Games.
Vriesde is the most successful ever Surinamese track and field athlete and holds the South American records for 800 m, 1000 m and 1500 m (indoors and outdoors) and also for 3000 m (indoors). Her coach is Luiz de Oliveira.
She was disqualified and stripped of her gold medal after the 2003 Pan-American Games after testing positive for excessive caffeine levels. She was not banned however and went on to compete at that year's World Championships.
At the end of the 2005 season, having contested seven world championships and five Olympic Games, she declared that she would not run 800 m competitively anymore, and that she would instead focus on longer distances, including the 3000 m steeplechase.
Read more about this topic: Letitia Vriesde
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