Chris Stipdonk said he would bow out of the niche, exhilarating world of knuckle hop after winning Arctic Winter Games gold but narrowly missing the games record distance.
Knuckle hop involves resting in a push-up position on your toes and knuckles, then bouncing your way around a gym floor for the farthest possible distance.
Stipdonk, a former Fort Simpson resident now living in Yellowknife, is a master of the art. He holds the world record and was the clear favourite entering Wednesday evening’s event, meaning the main question was whether he could break the 191-foot Arctic Winter Games record set in 1988.
He came within three feet.
“I knew halfway around that I was going to be really close to getting it done,” said Stipdonk afterward as his wife cleaned wounds on his knuckles. His young children were in the crowd at Fort McMurray’s Suncor Community Centre.
“I put in all my effort. I said I was going to do that. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to do this event but people were really interested, people wanted to see it,” he said.
“I gave it my all. I cannot go farther than that at this point in time. I don’t have any regrets being here, there are no second guesses, second thoughts. I’m really happy and my kids are going to be happy for me.
“You do your best and have fun. There’s nothing fun about it, but I did my best.”
‘I’m not doing that again’
Knuckle hop is a banner event at the Arctic Winter Games. More than a dozen reporting teams watched Stipdonk’s performance, which the CBC carried live during its evening newscast across the North.
There are layers to knuckle hop beyond the raw – very raw – spectacle on the floor.
For example, the 191-foot games record set in the 1980s belongs to Rodney Worl of Alaska. Rodney’s son, Kyle, who has been trying for years to reach that record, placed second on Wednesday. He collapsed to the ground at 166 feet and five inches, well clear of the chasing pack but not within touching distance of his father’s finest work.
Stipdonk himself came to Fort McMurray at the apparent end of a years-long story arc.
His knuckle hops had been centre-stage in 2014 and 2016, but a travel issue meant he missed the NWT’s trials for the 2018 Arctic Winter Games and was not selected.
With competitive knuckle hop events barely held once a year, and the pandemic scrubbing years of events, Stipdonk has competed at most three or four times since 2016.
His seven-year wait for another Arctic Winter Games over, he prowled a warm-up area wearing headphones while competitors hopped. As soon as he finished, despite the agony of just missing the record, he warmly embraced wife Amy.
“That’s it, man,” he said, pulling up chairs for the two of them.
Stipdonk says he may still take part in knuckle hop at selection events for future Arctic Winter Games – where performances can equal points toward making the NWT team – but he has no plan to compete at games level again. He would prefer to focus on several other Arctic Sports events in which he stands a strong chance of an ulu.
“I’m not doing that again,” he said of knuckle hop.