Sjinkie Knegt: The Ultimate Finisher ~ Passion/Patin/Vitesse - Passion/Speed/Skating


24 juin 2018

Sjinkie Knegt: The Ultimate Finisher

If you’re already a fan of short track, Sjinkie Knegt doesn’t need any introduction. If you are just getting in the sport and want to widen your horizon and learn more about skaters from all over the world, you need to start looking at the Dutch superstar who has been dubbed by the team at Passion/Speed/Skating as The Ultimate Finisher.

By Carl Savard
Photos by Oscar van den BoschDanny Kim, Carl Savard and Rianne de Vries' personnal collection

My meeting with Sjinkie Knegt wasn’t planned ahead. While spending time between two interviews, an opportunity knocked and I answered. Passion/Speed/Skating is starting to have a solid following and more and more athletes on the international circuit know who we are and appreciate the spotlight we are putting on the sport. Those athletes who already follow us are helping us develop relationships with others and the snowball effect as been constant. Thanks to that snowball effect, I was able to chat with two times olympic medalist and 2015 overall world champion Sjinkie Knegt.

Leader of the pack
Knegt’s history on ice started when he was seven years old. “Most of the kids in Holland starts in long track and some move on to short track but I never did long track, I started directly with short track. The coach of the basic skating class where I started was also the coach of the short track club. He asked me if I wanted to try it so I tried it and never stopped it. At the beginning I was falling a lot, but after a year I was already competing with other guys of my age and winning competitions. When you start winning that’s when it starts to be fun.” After a few years, it became clear for the kid from Bantega, a small community just south of Heerenveen, that he wanted to reach for the summit. “ When I was 13 or 14 years old, I did some regional selections in Holland and after that it went pretty fast. In 2006 I did the blocks at a World cup event in Heerenveen with Daan (Breeuwsma) and after that World cup, I did a selection competition for European championships and I finished in seventh place so I was invited on the national team. Around the same time, Daan finished second  at the national championships at the senior level, I was still a junior, and after that we ended up being both on the team and we’re still here!”  Being there is almost an euphemism. Since entering the international circuit, Sjinkie Knegt has done more than showing up. He has lead the way for the Dutch national team amassing over 50 World cup medals, 34 more at the European championships, 15 at the World championships and added to that two olympic medals. In 2015, he was crowned overall world champion, 27 years after Dutch skaters Peter van de Velde and Richard Suyten finished one and two at the World championships in St-Louis in 1988.

“A wonder on skate!”
Fans of the sport aren’t the only ones enjoying the soon to be 29 years old athlete’s feats.  His coach Jeroen Otter shares the same appreciation. “Sjinkie is a guy that you can’t predict what he’s going to do. He is a wonder on skates.” When talking to Knegt about Otter, it’s pretty clear the respect is mutual. “If you are technically solid, you have big chances of becoming a great skater with Jeroen as your coach. He is into physical training and turning skaters into strong athletes and he likes to switch things up.”
Otter likes to do different kind of training camps. He believes in the value of being a complete athlete. Some of the most recent camps were a trip to Corse for a pretty intense hiking experience of 5 days and another trip in Spain to go through the country on bikes. Otter likes team building experiences. “If you do the same thing everyday it gets boring. You have to do different things. We do that with Jeroen. I like it” says Knegt who’s been coached by Jeroen Otter for eight years now. 

A few bumps along the way
If we all agree now that Sjinkie Knegt needs to be in every conversations when it comes to who’s the most exciting skater in the world these days, his name didn’t always came up for the right reasons. Although his passion for the sport is what makes him exciting to watch, his ferocity on the ice did not always panned out the right way. In 2014 at the European championships, after being beaten by Viktor Ahn in the last lap of the 5000m relay event, Knegt flipped the birds in the direction of Ahn. A gesture that got him disqualified. “I’m a passionate guy and I know I shouldn’t have done that and definitely won’t do that again.” Two years before that incident, on the last stretch of a race, Knegt started celebrating a tad too early and ended up losing the race to Canada’s Guillaume Bastille. “I was skating at home, I was suppose to win my first World cup and after that it took me three more years to do so! It was definitely a stupid mistake.” Knegt now smiles when he talks about those events, because he is more mature now and definitely learned from those mistakes. 

How will it end?
If Knegt is the ultimate finisher on the ice, he doesn’t really have a plan for what will be his life after skating. I guess it adds to the words of his coach saying he is unpredictable. “I think I will skate for four more years. I think in four years I will still be one of the best skaters in Holland. Maybe I won’t be skating all the distances at the Olympics but I could still be one of the great skaters in the relay. I also think I can teach the young guys a lot of things.”

Even though he doesn’t know how his career will end, I’m sure he will push until he crosses the finish line. That’s just who he is. After all, he is The Ultimate Finisher. 

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