The Perfect Extreme Sports Cocktail: Red-Hot Hockey Aces Melt the Ice
Take some of the best and toughest ice-hockey players in the world, a sizzling atmosphere, stunning surroundings, tonnes of steel, a huge cooling system and thousands of square metres of frozen water. The result? Red Bull Crashed Ice! Since the first ever race back in 2000 Red Bull Crashed Ice has developed to become the most breathtaking winter sports events in the world. Ice-hockey aces hurtle down courses up to 500 metres in length in groups of four, shoulder to shoulder, as they fight it out for victory. The whole race is held on a steep downhill track dotted with chicanes, jumps and rollers. Pushing, sliding, sprinting and wrangling are all on the menu as the athletes race down the course, but the rules are, in fact, very simple: first to the bottom wins. Shaken, of course, but not stirred …
From Stockholm to Moscow, Davos to Prague, Quebec to Minnesota: Red Bull Crashed Ice has already played host to its fair share of insane action since the first event back in 2000. In 2009, it was Arttu Pihlainen (FIN) and Crashed Ice legend Jasper Felder (SWE) who triumphed in the races in Quebec City (CAN) and Lausanne (SUI) respectively, defying temperatures way below zero to fire up the huge crowds of up to 50,000 onlookers.
In Red Bull Crashed Ice, skaters descend a steep ice canal filled with bumps, jumps, rollers and obstacles four-at-a-time, jostling for position as they reach speeds of up to 70 km/h. With only the top two racers going through to the next round, competition is fierce. The event is held in a classic knockout format, and the field of 64 riders starting the main event is whittled down to just four athletes competing for the title in the Final.
But how do you prepare for such a unique race? First and foremost it is essential to know what you are doing on the ice! However, that doesn’t mean that all of the athletes competing in Red Bull Crashed Ice ply their trade in the world’s top ice hockey leagues – for example, living legend of the sport Jasper Felder is a professional bandy player, a game popular in his native Sweden and similar to ice hockey with a round ball and many rules adopted from football. Even if spending a lot of time on the ice is important when preparing for a race, Felder is convinced that the key to success lies in the mental preparation: “It is hard to do any special training; the only thing I do is skate a lot – around three or four times a week, sometimes more. To be honest, getting ready for Red Bull Crashed Ice is more of a mind game – it’s just completely unique.”
The sport most similar to ice cross downhill is probably ski cross. In this discipline, skiers descend a snow course featuring jumps, rollers and banked corners four-at-a-time, with the fastest two athletes progressing to the next round. While physical contact is (as with ice cross downhill) not officially permitted, the high speeds and twisty courses make for spectacular action and plenty of crashes.
While Felder’s six wins in a row still remains the record for the most back-to-back victories in Red Bull Crashed Ice, the Swede has only taken top spot once since 2006 – in March 2009 in Lausanne (SUI). Indeed, the last few years have been dominated by a group of strong Finnish athletes: in 2008 Miikka Jouhkimainen won the event in Davos (SUI), while Arttu Pihlainen did the double by winning in Quebec City (CAN) in 2008 and 2009.
Growing media attention means that an increasing number of young, talented skaters are getting into Ice Cross Downhill and Red Bull Crashed Ice. However, while the next generation may be hammering on the door in 2010, old hands such as Jasper Felder certainly aren’t willing to relinquish their grip just yet: “I’ve been skating Red Bull Crashed Ice for eight years now. I’m going to be 39 this year, but I still feel great. You can never count me out!”
All amateur ice skaters, as well as professional ice hockey players can qualify to participate in these two stops and can be selected through national qualifiers within the next few weeks. Find out more from the Red Bull Crashed Ice website.
Watch Jesper in action in Lausanne earlier this year.