Friday 21 February 2020

Oldest colour footage of Elfstedentocht ice skating marathon found

A still from the video

Recently discovered film footage of the 1954 Elfstedentocht ice skating race is now thought to be the oldest record in colour of the emblematic ice race, Omrop Fryslân reports.

The Elfstedentocht is a 200 kilometer race over canals and lakes in Friesland, taking in the province’s 11 cities of Friesland and was last held in 1997.

The 16mm film footage was found by experts from the Frisian film archive who were presented with the collection of amateur film maker Sjoerd Steensma (1910-1995) by his daughter Klara Woldring-Steensma.

Until now Frisian film maker Han de Vries was thought to be the first to record the ‘race of races’ in colour when he filmed the Elfstedentocht of 1956, which, as it now turns out, Steensma also filmed.

Steensma, who called himself a ‘baker/tradesman, was part of the firm Steensma and Sons in Bolsward and an avid amateur filmer, Woldring-Steensma told the broadcaster.

‘He wanted to report and would do anything to get the shots.(..)My father was a man who thought long and hard about the things he wanted to film. He filmed his family and lots of sporting events. He had a sense of drama,’ she said.

The footage shot by Steensma of the 1956 Elfstedentocht also had drama in spades. He filmed the moment the five lead skaters came over the finishing line together as a result of a pact they had agreed to. They  were subsequently disqualified, making Van den Berg, who came in 6th, the winner. He, however, refused the title. No winner was decided on in the end.

The Frisian archive said it was extremely happy to have the footage. ‘It’s a fine achievement for an amateur filmer, and in colour too. It shows Steensma had a sense of history. This is a pearl in our archive,’ spokesman Syds Wiersma told the broadcaster. has been free for 13 years, but now we are asking our readers to help. Your donation will enable us to keep providing you with fair and accurate news and features about all things Dutch.
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