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Olympics-Short track-Dutchman Knegt on a medal hunt after horror injuries

Randy Mancini 26 Feb 5
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics
Short Track Speed Skating Events – Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics – Men’s 1500m Final – Gangneung Ice Arena - Gangneung, South Korea – February 10, 2018 - Second-placed Sjinkie Knegt of the Netherlands reacts during the victory ceremony. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/File Photo

February 5, 2022

By Julien Pretot

BEIJING (Reuters) – It is hard to find a more difficult journey to the Beijing Olympics than that of Sjinkie Knegt.

The Dutch short track speed skater, a 2015 world champion, was nursing a leg injury when a horror domestic incident in January, 2019, left him with severe burns to his face, leg, chest and feet.

“I think: I’ll turn on the wood stove for a while. That all went well. After a while I wanted to throw some wood on there, but something falls out and that falls on a bottle of thinner. And that explodes,” he said in a documentary made by Dutch TV station NOS.

“It happened so fast. It got all over my body. Of course, that burns incredibly fast. Also very briefly, but also very quickly.”

Knegt, however, was convinced he could go back on skates and is back at a high level, ready to compete at the Beijing Games.

He spent seven weeks in hospital and could not skate for six months, before returning to competition in early 2020.

Last November, Knegt finished second in the 1,500 metres at a World Cup event.

“That result was a nice boost, and it came at the right moment. Ever since, it all went upwards and onwards. I think I’m better than the ‘old Sjinkie’,” the 32-year-old said.

“Where I managed to beat him? I think somewhere in the past eight weeks. It’s difficult to compare, but I’m much faster right now than I’ve been before. I hope it’s just in time.”

In Beijing, Knegt will have several chances to add to his medal collection after taking bronze in the 1,000 metres in Sochi and silver in the 1,500 metres in Peyongchang.

“Of course, I would love to win a medal individually but if I win one with the relay I would be more than happy too. Although I prefer the gold, I’m happy to win a medal of any colour,” he said.

Knegt’s first chance will come later on Saturday when he takes part in the mixed relay event in a team spearheaded by Dutch rising star Suzanne Schulting.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)