Who is Sjinkie Knegt?
With an unforgettable name and a history-making bronze medal from the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Dutch skater Sjinkie Knegt is raising the profile of short track in his country. The Netherlands is much better known for its dominance on the long track speed skating oval than on the short track.
Short track beginnings
Knegt was born on July 5th, 1989 in Bantega, Netherlands and grew up in Heerenveen, the mecca of Dutch speed skating. He started speed skating around age 7 or 8, but decided to switch to short track after about a year at the suggestion of a coach. He found he preferred the “game” aspect of short track and enoyed competing against a pack of skaters instead of against the clock.
Knegt won multiple gold medals, including the overall title, at the 2012 European Championships, and won his first world championships medal, a silver in the men’s 5000m relay, that same year.
But it wasn’t until the 2014 European Championships that Knegt gained widespread attention, and this time it was for a race he lost. In the men’s 5000m relay, Knegt crossed the finish line just behind Russia’s Viktor Ahn. As Ahn pumped his fists in triumph, Knegt raised both of his middle fingers and kicked his skate in Ahn’s direction. The image went viral, and Knegt had to give back the bronze medal he’d earned from the overall competition. He later apologized, calling it “not the smartest thing I’ve ever done.”
Knegt made his Olympic debut in 2010 at age 20, but didn’t make it past the semifinals in any of his three races. His best finish was 11th in the 1000m.
Four years later at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, he collected his first Olympic medal by earning bronze in the 1000m. Ahn was the gold medalist, and the two shared the podium without incident.
Knegt also came close to another medal in the men’s 5000m relay, where the Dutch men finished fourth.
At the 2015 World Championships, Knegt became the second Dutch short track skater ever to win the overall world title.
He missed the chance to defend his title, however, when a bad crash at a World Cup event caused him to break three ribs and miss the 2016 World Championships. He returned in 2017 to win another overall medal, this time silver, in addition to three world titles: with the Dutch men in the 5000m relay, in the 500m and in the 3000m (which is not an Olympic event).
Over the course of the 2017-2018 World Cup season, which consisted of four competitions in the fall of 2017, Knegt showed he’ll be a multi-medal Olympic threat by making the podium at least once in every distance. He won silver in the 500m, gold in the 1000m, bronze and silver in the 1500m, and two silvers with the Dutch men in relay.
When Knegt won 1000m bronze in Sochi, he became the first Dutch skater to win an Olympic medal in short track.
Knegt also holds the world record in the 1500m. He set it in Nov. 2016 at a World Cup competition in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Beyond being a pioneer for the Netherlands in his sport, Knegt’s catchy and unique name has made him a celebrity in his country. It’s pronounced Shin-Key Connect.
“I think you have to see every competition like a normal competition. Only then you can have the best results and not put pressure on yourself. Pressure does not make you skate faster.” – Sjinkie Knegt to ISU.org
Off the ice
Knegt has two daughters with his partner, Fenna van der Wal. His oldest is named Myrthe, and his younger daughter Melle was born in May 2017.
In his free time, Knegt enjoys working with metal and exploring the technical side of short track by tinkering with skates and blades.