After the tour

An historical day

After the tour

An historical day

Listen Henk Gemser: “About four kilos lighter, and the next morning not being able to get out of bed. Impossible! All my muscles creaked. Such a tremendous muscle hangover, that I couldn’t even raise myself independently, not even get out of my bed. And the day after, I had to report for military service again. That’s what I did, but creaking and like an old man. When I look back on that day, I realise that at the time I was not so aware of the fact that I was actually part of a cultural heritage.” Kees Bovée: “For three weeks I had water on the knees and for one year I couldn’t lean on my elbows. It was the most frightful Eleven-towns Skating Tour in history. Exactly on the coldest day of the year, in the severest winter of the century. For a medieval penitential tour it wouldn’t be possible to think of something more gruelling. The bigger no doubt was the admiration for the achievement. That I had delivered the ultimate performance, was obvious from the reactions at home and at my work. I shall never forget that day. In retrospect I think that for me it was a day with a golden edge. The newspapers in those days were unanimous in their judgement. Descent into hell, murderous elimination race, agony, awful annihilation battle and more such headlines adorned the commentaries. I was also declared holy by them. They wrote about the Ice Saint from Halsteren. I felt flattered by it. Eventually it was also admitted in the papers that this tour should actually not have been allowed to take place. Because of the grim circumstances it would have been irresponsible.” George Schweigmann: “It is difficult to say what the Eleven-towns Skating Tour of 1963 has meant to me, but there’s one thing that clearly stands out. In the months before, I had suffered an enormous setback in my business. I had taken a wrong decision, financially, and that was very worrying. But during the Eleven-towns Tour I completely forgot all about it. When I sat on the sofa that evening, with my children, I thought: “See, I’ve had this setback in business, but this is something I’ve managed to do”. And then I also said aloud, again and again: “You see, you’re the same person, aren’t you. You’ll also get over the business setback”. I really needed it, and that’s how I’ve always felt about it”. Photo: Card from Jan Jansse From the archives: comparison of percentages of skaters who reached the finish in the Eleven-towns Skating Tours from 1909 to 1963