This weekend sees the return of the Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship, the crackers but crazy-good icecapade that pits four skaters against each other down a demanding and slippery track. It's high speed, high entertainment, and high on our priority list.
If you've been with Sidepodcast for the past few winters, you'll know we've been following the Crashed Ice championship closely, revelling in the short bursts of exhiliration each race brings, and then eagerly anticipating the next. We've watched the sport grow from a couple of weekends of downhill skating, to this jam-packed five-event schedule to decide the new champion.
Downhill in the best possible way
Crashed Ice may be a new concept to you and, if so, you might wonder what all the fuss is about. The concept is easy to grasp, a knockout tournament where each skater fights to be the first to cross the line, picking up more and more points as they move towards the final. This year we have five gorgeous destinations, including the first and new venue at Niagara Falls. The crowds gather, despite the cold, and cheer on the skaters as they put on quite the show.
The individal events are short, speedy, and in the true sense of the phrase: Anything can happen. You can have the fastest skater lead half a race, then tumble and be out of the running. You can have helmets falling off halfway down and misplaced elbows causing disqualifications. The best races end in photo finishes, and nine times out of ten you're judging a knee against a toe, a flailing arm against someone's back. If a skater crosses the line upright, no matter where they finish, they've done a good job.
All this to say, give it a chance if you haven't already, and come join us in the live events as the events unfold. The action will be streamed on Red Bull TV for free in most excellent quality, and I believe there are a few other options for tuning in as well. The most important thing is to dive into the comments and started cheering on your favourites. It doesn't take long to pick a side - these guys have personality by the bucketload, and names that are just made for inventive nicknames.
If I haven't convinced you to watch yet, here's a roundup of last year's action.
Now, a quick start guide for those who have forgotten last year, or who are new to the sport.
The history of the sport
The sport began in Sweden, with athletes from across the globe gathering in Stockholm to face off on a terrifying 300 metre downhill track. Apparently, the construction of the track was so intense (and presumably delayed) that there was no time for practicing, and the event had to go ahead without any testing in advance. It was a success, however, as the sport has grown to race in ten different countries, with thousands of spectators gathering on the hills and mountains to view the fast-paced world of Crashed Ice.
Jasper Felder is a name you may hear mentioned, and that's because he won the competition from its inception in 2001 until 2005. My grasp on the history goes a little fuzzy there, but I think it became an official proper World Championship in 2010. That means there are just three champions to date, and they are all hoping to capture a second victory: Martin Niefnecker, Arttu Pihlainen and last year's champ Kyle Croxall.
The 2012/2013 calendar
|1st December||Canada||Niagara Falls|
|26th January||USA||Saint Paul|
|16th March||Canada||Quebec City|
Rules and regulations
Even something as manic as this sport has to have rules. Thankfully, they're nowhere near as complex as F1, though. Qualifying events are held nationally and internationally, with the best of the best coming together to participate in the finals each weekend. The racing takes place over three days, with the Round of 64 where we really start to pay attention.
Points are awarded from 1st place all the way down to 100th place, with the top eight racers ranked where they finish in the final and the small final. The rest are ranked depending on which round they were eliminated. Competitors aren't allowed to cause their rivals to fall, slow down or be knocked off the course altogether.
Aside from that, it's four-on-four, a dash to the finish, and hopefully a place in the final.
Last year's stars
The 2011 Crashed Ice final was something incredible to behold. After watching these athletes battle through heat after heat, weekend after weekend, it came down to the final race to decide the champion. With the Croxall brothers both battling for the title, family loyalty was nowhere to be seen, whilst everyone's favourite (Crashed Ice) Finn quickly sped off into the lead of the race.
It's a position we were used to seeing him in, as Pihlainen is legendary for his fast starts - when he gets into the lead, he's almost unstoppable. Scott Croxall was in second, with his brother behind, but clumsy Scott fell just before the finish line. Scott never has much luck, we've seen him disqualified, race without a helmet, and even have his skate break underneath him.
That moved his brother up to second place, giving Kyle just enough points to become the 2011 Crashed Ice World Champion. I'm hoping to see a similar sort of fight this year, just as close, just as tense, and just as fantastic.