Oldest color footage of skating event Elfstedentocht discovered

Jeen van den Berg crossing the finish line of the 1954 Elfstedentocht
Jeen van den Berg crossing the finish line of the 1954 Elfstedentochtvan Duinen / AnefoWikimedia CommonsCC-0

Color footage of the Elfstedentocht of 1954 were discovered in Friesland. These are the oldest known color images of the skating event, the Fries Film Archive announced. The footage was recorded by Sjoerd Steensma from Bolsward with a 16 mm camera. 

The color images were discovered when Steensma's daughter brought her father's collection to the archive. "At first we thought it was the tour of 1956. We already had a color picture of that. But it soon became clear that it was Jeen van den Berg in 1954," Syds Wiersma of the Fries Film Archive said to Omrop Fryslan. 

The Elfstedentocht, or Eleven Cities Tour, is a long-distance tour skating event through Friesland which starts and ends at Leeuwarden and passes eleven historical cities in the province. It is held at most once a year, and only if the natural ice along the entire route is thick enough to skate on safely. Jeen van den Berg won the Elfstedentocht in 1954.

The Steensma collection also includes footage from a number of other ice events, including the Elfstedentocht of 1956, and th NK long track of 1955 in the old Thialf, which was then still a natural ice rink. 

"It is really a great achievement that an amateur filmmaker alone made such images," Wiersma said to Omrop Fryslan. "And then also in color. That indicates that the man was historically aware. For us this is a jewel in our archive."

Klara Woldring-Steensma described her father as an all-rounder "who thought very carefully about what he wanted to record" to the broadcaster. "He filmed us as a family, but also events. He had a feeling for drama and also for things that were beautiful."