Fort Simpson athlete breaks record in knuckle hop at Arctic Winter Games trials

Chris Stipdonk hopped 200 feet and 8 inches during Arctic Winter Games trials in Inuvik, N.W.T., on Saturday.

Chris Stipdonk hopped 200 feet, 8 inches, during trials in Inuvik, N.W.T.

Chris and Amy Stipdonk with their daughter. The husband and wife both qualified to compete at the Arctic Winter Games this March in Whitehorse in the Arctic Sports category. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

Chris Stipdonk was on a mission Saturday as he hopped across a gym floor in a push-up position with his hands in fists: to break the world record in knuckle hop.

"Four years ago [at the Arctic Winter Games] I was 10 feet short," said Stipdonk, who's from Fort Simpson, N.W.T.

But Stipdonk, 34, didn't come up short on Saturday in Inuvik where he won the knuckle hop event during trials for the 2020 Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse. 

"I knew where 200 feet was and once I got that, I was kind of done. I don't think I could have gone much further."

Stipdonk knuckle-hopped exactly 200 feet and eight inches at the trials.

I'm going to pick some other events that I want to excel at.- Chris Stipdonk, athlete

The previous world record of 191 feet was set by Alaska's Rodney Worl in the 1980s, according to an Arctic Winter Games official records document.

Sport North's executive director Doug Rentmeister said Stipdonk broke the world record in knuckle hop.

New 'Stipdonk clause'

Stipdonk won the gold ulu in knuckle hop at the Arctic Winter Games in Greenland in 2016. He wasn't able to defend that title at the 2018 games, however, because bad weather prevented him from flying to Inuvik for trials. 

"It was just a really disappointing thing," said Stipdonk. "I love competing in Arctic Sports."

At least four athletes missed the 2018 trials. Stipdonk said a similar situation happened to his father in 1984, when he couldn't make it to Arctic Winter Games snowshoeing trials.

Chris Stipdonk set a world record during Arctic Winter Games trials in Inuvik last week when he knuckle hopped 200 feet and 8 inches (61.2 metres). The previous world record of 191 feet (58.2 metres), that was set by Alaska’s Rodney Worl in 1988. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

It was important to Stipdonk to push for change so that other athletes don't face the same disappointment of missing out on the games for reasons beyond their control.

"There's a new clause, it's called the Chris Stipdonk clause, and it basically says that Sport North and the TSO [Territorial Sports Organizations] will come up with an arrangement to make sure that people don't miss out on an opportunity like this again," said Stipdonk. 

Sport North's Rentmeister confirmed the new clause, and that Stipdonk's situation was the driving force behind the change.

Others eye world records

Stipdonk was one of 18 athletes this year who made Team NWT in the Arctic Sports category, and he's not the only one eyeing a world record.

Underwood Day edged out Stipdonk at the trials by one point to come in first overall in open male Arctic Sports.

Day won six out of 10 of the Arctic Sports events during the trials, but he acknowledged that "Chris, in the past few years, has been insane at the knuckle hop," and laughed as he said he "just strives for second" in that event.

Team NWT in Inuvik. The 2020 Arctic Winter Games take place this March in Whitehorse. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

The 19-year-old from Inuvik tied the Canadian record with his one-foot high kick of nine feet, two inches. Now he's hoping to beat the world record of nine feet, nine inches at the games in March.

"The world record has belonged to the Alaskans for numerous years and it's been a long time since a Canadian has actually held the world record. That's what I want to go for," Day said.

Stipdonk said he's happy that both he and his wife will be competing together in her hometown during this year's Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse.

He said now that he's broken the world record in knuckle hop, he's going to change his focus in future years.

"I'm going to pick some other events that I want to excel at, and somebody else can take on the knuckle hop. I've got my name on it now."

Underwood Day, 19, of Inuvik, tied the Canadian record with his one-foot high kick of 9 feet, 2 inches (2.79 metres). (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)


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