Ard Schenk: Apollo was inaccessible, even on ice as sandpaper

eventies. But of course it was mainly his sporting achievements that caused a total skating craze in the Netherlands.

Schenk won three European and three world titles in his career. But he earned his tenth place in the election of the greatest olympians of the Netherlands by his golden hat-trick at the 1972 Olympics in Sapporo.

The farmer’s son from Anna Paulowna – nicknamed Apollo – won the Olympic title on the 1,500, 5,000 and 10,000 metres. The initially somewhat timid and timid Schenk thus definitively stepped out of the shadow of the smooth-mouthed Kees Verkerk.

Sanding paper

Schenk started in Sapporo with a convincing victory over the 5,000 meters. With his time of 7.23,61 – these were the first games where the times could be electronically clocked to the hundredth second – he was more than 4.5 seconds faster than the number two, the Norwegian Roar Grønvold.

Welcome the criticism in the Makomanai stadium: due to poor treatment of the ice, Schenk’s competitors would have had it much harder. But Grønvold didn’t want to know anything about it: “This Schenk could not be beaten, he would even have won on sandpaper.”

Schenk was not overly lyrical about his golden slice. “Enormous”, he described his performance after the race. “But that’s all. A world title tells me more.”

After an inferior second day on the Japanese ice – Schenk went down on the 500 metres and became 34th – on day three the Dutch Viking was superior on the 1,500 metres. In an Olympic record of 2.02.96 he was 1.3 seconds faster than again Grønvold.

In the Netherlands, where the skating contests were not broadcast live on television due to the time difference, a million people sat in the middle of the night listening to Theo Koomen’s radio report.


The third gold medal followed after a brilliant race on the 10,000 meters. Verkerk started in the first group and recorded a formidable time of 15.04,70. That time wouldn’t be improved, almost everyone thought, partly because the ice was getting worse.

In the last group, hours after Verkerk, Schenk stepped on the ice. He got off to a furious start, drove on the miserable ice almost continuously sharply along the edge of the snow and completed his Olympic trilogy in 15.01,35.

Ford Galaxie

Very much value Schenk himself did not attach to his three gold slabs. He got rid of them and bought from the proceeds a Ford Galaxie 500 with which he made a road trip through the United States. At the end of the trip he gave the car away, keeping the nameplate as a souvenir.

“Those are indelible memories in a lifetime,” Schenk said. “The nameplate symbolizes my medals. Isn’t that better than staring at a trophy cabinet?”