In the wake of Knegt: ‘Make no mistake, he was burned to death’

“He didn’t doubt himself. Not for a moment. Since the accident, more than three years ago, it was clear to Sjinkie Knegt that he would return. Not only on skates, but also at the highest level. But it was not all that certain. “

NOS reporter Kees Jongkind and editor Monique Tesselaar followed Knegt, the best Dutch short tracker ever, for three years. From that one fire block that fell from the stove and landed wrong, to the moment he returned to the ice rink.

And Jongkind often shook his head in the editing set.

Whenever he saw the images of the burns on Knegt’s legs, he realized: this is almost impossible to do. “Make no mistake: he was burned to death. In other countries, where there is less care for victims of burns, fifty percent of people do not survive this.”

“They explained to me that if twenty percent of your skin is burned, you are in danger of life. Because you are then exposed to infections too much, which can kill you.”

Let’s briefly go back to the day in question. To January 10, 2019. What exactly happened? As Knegt explains in the documentary itself: “I think: I’ll switch on the wood stove for a while. It all went well. After a while I wanted to throw some wood in there, but something falls out and it falls on a bottle of thinner. And it explodes. .”

“It went so fast. Because there was still a little bit of liquid in it, it came all over my body. That burns very quickly, of course. Also very briefly, but also very quickly.”

‘We hadn’t thought about it yet’

Not long after, Jongkind received a phone call from Dennis Klaster, Knegt’s manager. “He commented that it could be a nice film. We hadn’t thought about that for a moment. That it would be possible at all to stand at the bedside of someone who is 30 percent burned.”

Jongkind immediately got to work together with colleague Monique Tesselaar. “We had to ask for permission everywhere, not least at the hospital, because in those first days you want to record the seriousness of the accident.”

At the time, it was still uncertain what it would yield. “First the question was: will he survive? Then: would he ever be able to skate again? That turned into the question: can he still skate at a level? And the last question that gradually arose was: will he be so good again that he can compete in the Games fetches?”

That first question turned out to be the most exciting in those first days after the accident. “But the advantage was, and the doctors always say that, that he is a top athlete. He is young, fit and can withstand pain incredibly well. But the first images I shot, when I saw his legs, I thought: how on earth is this going to be okay?”

Jongkind shot those first images in the shower. “I had to do that alone, with my iPhone. Because we simply couldn’t come up with camera crews all the time; only one person was allowed in. And even then we were still completely packed to comply with all hygiene rules.”

“At the time, I was still mainly working on the lighting, the sound, all that sort of thing. Because you only get one chance to film it well. It was only when I looked back at those first images later that I realized how intense they are. .”

“It was really terrible. If those gauzes are plucked off his legs … He was in the shower, so that it comes off a little easier because of the moisture. But everything hurts about that.”

At the end of February, Knegt was released from the hospital. Then the process of healing began. “We gradually got used to seeing his legs, but when a colleague looked at it, he or she invariably said: you should warn people before they start looking, because you will be shocked.”

“We finally had the documentary approved by the net, and there is an age limit for 12 years and older. That’s nice, because you don’t want certain images to be repeated at 8:30 in the morning.”


At the beginning of April 2019, Knegt can do the first strength training. And in June he puts on skates again for the first time. At that moment, Knegt begins the long road to return to his old level.

“If you now see him in action at the Games, you know where he comes from. Then you also understand what a miracle it is that he is skating there again.”

The question remains whether Knegt didn’t mind that someone was always there. “Well, there is a scene in which the doctor asks him: what do you think is the ugliest thing about your legs? At that moment he is lying with his legs bare on the bed and you see all those scars, those injuries. And he doesn’t know what she means by that question.”

“Because he is not concerned with outward appearances. He does not care. He does not care whether he has combed his hair, whether he is wearing the same clothes again, whether he is lying there naked on the bed. As laconic as he happens, so he is.”