Rare footage has emerged of women skating in the Elfstedentocht ice marathon of 1942, at a time when women were not allowed to compete formally.
The footage shows Antje Schaap, Wopkje Kooistra and Sjoerdtje Faber, who showed no signs of exhaustion after the 200 kilometre marathon, being given an enthusiastic welcome when they crossed the finish in the fastest times.
The Fries Film Archive recently acquired a new scanner with which old film material could be studied frame by frame. “That’s when we discovered this unique material,” coordinator Jurjen Enzing told local broadcaster Omroep Friesland.
The Elfstedentocht of war year 1942 took place on January 22, when temperatures reached minus -17°.
Jessica Merkens, who wrote a book about women participating in the Elfstedentocht, said the women were sought out by the press and received letters from fans all over the world. “Their achievement was celebrated, even if they didn’t compete formally,” she said.
While the men were dressed in their usual sporting clothes, many of the women skaters wore skirts. “It’s not that they wanted to look their best on the day. Women were supposed to wear skirts whatever they were doing, including skating,” Merkens said.
Not much in the footage shows that the Netherlands had been occupied by the Germans for two years by that time, although local Nazi chief Werner Friedrich Ross can be seen for one fleeting moment.
The film archive is happy about the find and it is thought the scanner may help uncover and preserve more hidden treasure. “I think there is amateur film footage in lots of attics,” Enzing said.
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