An incident involving a dropped barbell helped Marlous Schuilwerve, pictured here with national team coach Karen Tovmasjan, to compete at the IWF World Championships in Riyadh ©ITG

When Marlous Schuilwerve dropped the barbell on her neck in training last month she could have died, as a bodybuilder had done a month before in Bali in Indonesia.

Instead she ended up being a social media sensation when the video had "about two million views" and the fame helped Schuilwerve to agree new sponsorship deals that paid for her to compete at the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships here.

The bodybuilder, New York-born Indonesian Justyn Vicky, died after surgery when he broke his neck in the gym, dropping 210 kilograms while doing back squats.

Schuilwerve, unlike Vicky, had room to manoeuvre when her accident happened during a snatch session and the former judoka managed to duck down low enough to escape injury.

She dusted herself down and, as she said on Instagram, "It’s okay, I got the next one."

A video of the accident went viral. "I dropped the barbell on my neck and I ended up with better sponsorship deals," said Schuilwerve, whose social media following has grown to more than 13,000.

"It had a happy ending. The sponsorships paid for me to come here."

Any form of income makes a big difference because "there is no money in Dutch weightlifting," said Schuilwerve, who works as a commercial innovator.

Her opinion was backed up by national team coach Karen Tovmasjan, a CrossFit competition organiser across Europe who is not being paid for his time in Saudi Arabia, and team-mate Myrthe Timmermans, a student who works part-time.

Timmermans had to pay €2,000 (£1,700/$2,140) for her trip to compete in today’s women’s 64kg, where she was in tears after coming within one lift of a bombout.

She felt she had made three good clean and jerks, but saw the first two ruled out for "bending and extending the arms" by a majority decision and then by the jury.

"It was still an amazing experience to be here," said Timmermans, who finished with a career best total of 196kg.

Schuilwerve, who made 80-93-173 for 19th place in the 55kg category, spoke about the signs of growth in the sport in a country where it barely existed for decades.

The Netherlands has five athletes in Riyadh, four of them women - its biggest World Championships team ever.

"Hopefully in future we will be able to send a full team," said Schuilwerve, 28.

"We’re still a small sport but we are growing, we’re getting there.

"We are run by volunteers and we need more. To recruit volunteers you need a history, and we don’t really have one, we don’t have enough people who were in weightlifting in the past who want to help now.

"When I stop lifting I want to stay involved, I want to make sure it’s better for the next generation."

Schuilwerve was a judoka and a cheerleader before moving into CrossFit and, as soon as she tried it, weightlifting.

She has made more than her Riyadh total in local competitions and hopes to compete next year in the German Bundesliga, which two of her Riyadh team-mates do, Enzo Kuworge and Timmermans.

Myrthe Timmermans, a student who works part-time, is also competing for the Netherlands at the IWF World Championships ©IWF
Myrthe Timmermans, a student who works part-time, is also competing for the Netherlands at the IWF World Championships ©IWF

"For me the inspiration to take up weightlifting was other women," said Schuilwerve.

"I used to do cheerleading and judo at university in Edinburgh (she competed in judo against Britain’s Jess Gordon Brown, who also lifted in Riyadh) and I followed Mattie Rogers, who was a cheerleader back then, on social media."

Rogers, the American who is one of the most popular female lifters in the world, switched to weightlifting and eventually Schuilwerve did the same, making her international debut with Timmermans at the European Championships last year.

Nikki Lowik, a European under-23 winner at 76kg and 81kg in the past two years, is expected to produce the team’s best result when she competes at 81kg on Friday (September 16).

The star of the team is Kuworge, who will not lift here. He has had a bad knee injury and is here to weigh in without lifting as he waits for full fitness before posting his first Olympic qualifying total.

When Kuworge, who won world and European junior titles, lifted in the super-heavyweights in Tokyo he was the Netherlands’ first Olympic Games weightlifter since Piet van de Kruk in 1968. He finished sixth in Tokyo.

Kuworge, 22, has been involved in a dispute with the Dutch Weightlifting Association (DWA) about who should coach him, and another of the nation’s top lifters, Sanne Bijleveld, stopped competing internationally after a fall-out.

IWF President Mohammed Jalood went to the Netherlands to meet the weightlifting federation and the Dutch National Olympic Committee in an attempt to restore calm.

Kuworge now trains in Germany.