Sjoukje Dijkstra: champion figure skater

First Dutch gold medal winner at the Winter Olympic Games

black and white photograph, a woman ice skating
by
Aisha Villegas (opens in new window) (Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision)

Sjoukje Dijkstra was born on 28 January 1942 in Akkrum, a village in the Dutch province of Friesland. As the daughter of an Olympic speed skater, the doctor Lou Dijkstra, Sjoukje came into contact with the sport at a very young age.

black and white photograph, two women washing dishes

When Dijkstra turned six years old, she received her first skates as a birthday present from her father. It turned out to be the perfect gift.

That same year she started training in the ice rink at the Apollohal in Amsterdam. The training sessions were held in a roped-off area during general opening hours, but that was not a problem for Dijkstra: 'I was six years old and just happy to be on the ice.' There, her distinct talent for figure skating became obvious.

pair of light purple / pink ice skates

When she was just 11 years old, Dijkstra went to London for a number of months to train under the tutelage of the skilled but aloof coach Arnold Gerschwiler. He would remain her coach throughout her competitive career.

black and white photograph, a woman ice skating

The hard training paid off. Dijkstra started competing at a very young age, becoming the first Dutch figure skater to make it to major international championships. She made her debut at 14 in the Cortina d'Ampezzo 1956 Winter Olympics, earning the 12th spot in the competition.

By the beginning of the 1960s, the 'swinging Frisian' had become a popular ice figure skater. That year Dijkstra won the silver medal in the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California.

black and white photograph, two woman with flowers in their arms disembarking a plane

The peak of her career took place on February 2, 1964, during the Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria.

Dijkstra jumped and danced to win the Olympic title with great conviction. Under the watchful eye of the royal family, she earned the first gold medal ever won for the Netherlands at the Winter Games. In honour of this, she was appointed Knight in the Order of Oranje-Nassau.

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Black and white photo of Sjoukje Dijkstra and Carol Heiss Jenkins

With this impressive title under her belt, it seemed like Dijkstra had won everything there was to win.

Besides having participated three times in the Winter Olympics, she participated in many other international competitions. Dijkstra was the European champion five times each year between 1960 and 1964 and world champion three times world champion between 1962 and 1964. She was also named Sportswoman of the Year six times (1959-1964).

black and white photograph, three women on a medal podium

In 1964, Dijkstra decided to switch her sports career into the ice revue and joined the company Holiday on Ice, showing her masterful ice skating skills to a bigger audience.

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Today, Sjoukje Dijkstra is a celebrity in national and international sports history. On January 9, 2014, she was inducted into the International Figure Skating Hall of Fame at a ceremony during the 2014 U.S. Championships in Boston, Massachusetts. She remains a source of inspiration for many who aspire to have a career in ice skate sports.


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This blog is part of the Europeana Sport project which showcases cultural treasures relating to sporting heritage in Europe.

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