Henk van der Grift

Henk van der Grift

Henk van der Grift in 1962
Personal information
Born (1935-03-30) 30 March 1935
Breukelen, the Netherlands
Country Netherlands
Sport Speed skating
Henk van der Grift with Reyka van Zijtveld in February 1962; they married on 22 August 1962.[1]

Hendrik ("Henk") van der Grift (born 25 December 1935) is a retired Dutch speed skater.

At the 1960 Winter Olympics van der Grift finished 10th on the 500 m and fell on the 1500 m.[2] Not satisfied with training facilities in the Netherlands, he lived in Norway for a while, working as a car mechanic. The superior training facilities in Norway paid off and van der Grift won silver at the 1961 European Allround Championships behind Olympic Champion Viktor Kosichkin. This was the first Dutch medal in international championships in eight years and it made van der Grift one of the favourites for the World Allround Championships.[3]

And van der Grift delivered: in what turned out to be his greatest year, he became the 1961 World Allround Champion in Gothenburg. On the 500 m during those championships, he finished second behind Soviet sprinter Yevgeny Grishin. He then lost many points on the 5000 m, but he overcame that deficit by winning the 1500 m. On the final distance (the 10000 m), he seemed to be losing his lead, surrendering one second each lap to Viktor Kosichkin. But van der Grift managed to skate his final two laps fast enough to retain his lead, narrowly edging out Kosichkin by a margin of just 0.162 points (equivalent to 3.24 seconds of difference on the 10000 m).[3]

His victory made van der Grift the first Dutch World Allround Champion in more than 55 years Coen de Koning had been the last in 1905. As a result of his victory, he was elected Dutch Sportsman of the year (a title shared with Judo giant Anton Geesink)[4] and he received the 1961 Oscar Mathisen Award.[5]

In 1962, van der Grift became Dutch Allround Champion, but he did not manage to successfully defend his World Champion title that year after three of the four distances, van der Grift was in second place behind Boris Stenin, but despite Stenin's bad result on the final distance and van der Grift overtaking Stenin, van der Grift still finished second behind Kosichkin. The following season, he fell ill and ended his speed skating career.[3]


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Preceded by
Netherlands Eef Kamerbeek
Dutch Sportsman of the Year
with Anton Geesink

Succeeded by
Netherlands Henk Nijdam
Preceded by
Soviet Union Boris Stenin
Oscar Mathisen Award
Succeeded by
Sweden Jonny Nilsson
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