Imagine yourself in a regular push-up position, but you are using your knuckles instead of your palms. Without your stomach touching the ground, hop on the tips of your toes and bare knuckles in a straight line and continue to hop until you cannot bear the pain. You have just performed the knuckle-hop.
Rodney Worl has held the world record for the event, 191 feet and ten inches, since the 1988 Arctic Winter Games. He says it is most painful in the first fifty feet:
“And after that, from about fifty-feet to hundred twenty-feet you kind of go numb in your knuckles. And then…and then from a hundred and twenty-five feet the pain starts to come back, but comes back up your arms instead your in knuckles seems to spread up into your arms and into your chest and eventually it’s just muscle fatigue and you fall down. But the pain afterwards is even worse because it tares the skin off your knuckles and sometimes down to the bone. You know the healing process is painful. So every time you have to wash your hands or take a shower and get them wet again it’s Owe. So for the next two weeks is pretty brutal.”
Rodney’s son, Kyle Worl, is competing in the knuckle hop in this year’s Olympics for the first time. He explains what the event is all about:
“It’s suppose to be mimicking the motion of a seal on the ice. And so hunters long ago when they used to use harpoons, ivory tipped harpoons, they hopped up to the seal. And by staying really low to the ground it was a way to sneak-up on a seal.”
Both Rodney and Kyle agree that contestants compete against themselves attempting to achieve personal records. Kyle notes the World Eskimo Indian Olympics (WEIO) is a celebration of cultural games where sportsmanship is important. Athletes often help their competitors by providing helpful tips.
“And so it does not matter if you’re not a top athlete. Um, everybody has fun in these games no matter what skill level you are at and it’s more about reaching your own personal bests in these games and not beating everybody else.”
Rodney stopped competing in the knuckle hop in 2000. He hopes to return to the event in the next few years:
“As I get older I know I cannot beat myself anymore, my record, so now it would be a challenge to say, ‘Well, you know at fifty-four years old or fifty-five, whenever I compete again, um…that would be neat to do to one-hundred twenty-five or hundred-fifty feet.’ That would be a challenge to me.”
Rodney says the knuckle hop is the last event in the competition because it destroys the contestant’s hands and knuckles.