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New Dutch-Canadian farmer widely known as marathon skater

Van Benthem twice won "Elfstedentocht"

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

RED DEER, Alberta/VOLLENHOVE, the Netherlands - In March 2000, Albertan speed skaters could welcome a real veteran into their midst as one of the province’s newest residents. Dutch farmer Evert van Benthem (40) has taken an option on a Red Deer area dairy farm. To the Dutch - and to speed skating aficionados everywhere - he is better known for twice winning the famed skating marathon Elfstedentocht.

Van Benthem and his family of four are joining an ever-growing group of (young) Dutch farmers who seek their future elsewhere. Partly to blame for Van Benthem's wish to move is the fact that his dairy farm - and cheese making operation - no longer can expand as it is located within the confines of a nature park, near the lakes just west of the city of Meppel (and east of Vollenhove).

In the 1980s, Van Benthem already was infected with the emigration bug. He then focussed on New Zealand. His plans were shelved when the winters of 1985 and 1986 proved cold enough to hold the Elfstedentocht (Eleven Cities' Race in Friesland) which Van Benthem both entered and won. Since his consecutive wins, he has parlayed some of his fame into a profitable tourism venture as well in his hometown of St. Jansklooster, but as his wife explains, his preference still is farming.

Van Benthem - whose livestock and farm equipment will be auctioned off this summer - has opted for Red Deer partly because of its proximity to Calgary and its famed Olympic speed skating oval.