THE HAGUE: Dutch ice skating hero Reinier Paping, who became a household name in the Netherlands after winning a legendary race in bitterly cold conditions more than half a century ago, has died aged 90, the national broadcaster reported. “He died after a short illness,” his family told NOS, which did not give further details. Paping achieved national fame after winning the near-mythical Eleven Cities Race, called the Elfstedentocht in Dutch, along frozen canals on January 18, 1963. The 1963 event is widely seen as the one held in the most extreme conditions, with temperatures on that day plunging to minus 18 degrees Celsius (0.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Paping completed the ultra-endurance marathon, which has since been dubbed “The hell of ’63” in 10 hours, 59 minutes and 22 seconds. “With his victory, Paping got two season tickets at the skating rink in Deventer and a silver cigarette holder,” the NOS said. “But he mainly won eternal fame,” the broadcaster said. “My life changed that day. Everybody wanted to talk to me, even still today,” Paping told the NOS earlier this year when he turned 90. After 1963, the Elfstedentocht has only been held three more times, in 1985, 1986 and 1997. Completing the gruelling 200-kilometre (125-mile) route along 11 cities in the northern Friesland province is seen as the ultimate test of character. Those who complete the race are handed a medal called the Eleven Cities Cross, which even Dutch soldiers are allowed to wear on their uniforms.