It was the final and possibly most painful challenge of the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics: the knuckle hop.


The crowd cheered wildly as athletes dropped to the floor on just their knuckles and toes. The competitors hopped forward, emulating the way hunters used to get out on the ice to sneak up on seals.


Nick Hansen, of Unalakleet, said his knuckles go numb after only a few hops — then it’s about pushing through the pain and exhaustion to keep moving.


“It takes just utter endurance and bravery, I suppose,” said Hansen, the third-place finisher. “It just takes everything you’ve got. It’s the last event of the week. You take everything you’ve done all week and put it into this and just go for it.”


Christian Paul took first place in the event this year. The Kipnuk native went 136 feet on his knuckles and toes.


Paul said he’s proud of his accomplishment because in years past he’s wanted to give up when the event got too difficult.


“I just stopped when I was feeling tired or the muscles started burning too much,” Paul said. “By the third corner my muscles were already burning and I felt like I was going to give up before I got to this corner, but I didn’t. It took a lot to get this far.”


Rodney Worl set the knuckle hop world record at the Arctic Winter Games in 1988, hopping 191 feet and 10 inches.


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