Down but not out

Credit: Scott Serfas/Red Bull

Down but not out

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.

[youtube id="Inw-NGscNZM"]

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

DateCountryLocation
1st DecemberCanadaNiagara Falls
26th JanuaryUSASaint Paul
9th FebruaryNetherlandsLandgraaf
2nd MarchSwitzerlandLausanne
16th MarchCanadaQuebec 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

PosAthleteNatPts
1Kyle CroxallCAN3000
2Arttu PihlainenFIN2960
3Scott CroxallCAN2300
4Adam HorstCAN2190
5Paavo KlintrupFIN1296

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.

25 responses

  • Steven Roy01/12/2012 at 14:17

    The Croxalls can't keep dominating for another season

    I am tipping R2 (Not Heikki) to win but hoping against all sense that Niefy makes a comeback and wins three races. Not sure that is going to happen though.

  • Christine01/12/2012 at 14:19

    Scotty for the win!

  • Steven Roy01/12/2012 at 14:20

    Scotty for the win!

    I admire your loyalty but is that not like tipping Ralf Schimacher?

  • Steven Roy01/12/2012 at 14:21

    I admire your loyalty but is that not like tipping Ralf Schimacher?

    How did I manage that spelling mistake?

  • Christine01/12/2012 at 14:23

    I admire your loyalty but is that not like tipping Ralf Schimacher?

    That is exactly what it's like :) I loves me an underdog.

  • Christine01/12/2012 at 14:23

    Track guide: http://www.redbull.com/cs/Satellite/en_INT/Video/red-bull-crashed-ice-niagara-falls-2012-021243290869523

    Utter madness.

  • Steven Roy01/12/2012 at 14:31

    Track guide: www.redbull.com/c…2-021243290869523

    Reminds me of Graham Bell on Ski Sunday. Young guys attacking those things makes sense but someone older and not as fit doing it to show what it is really like is like sending jackie Stewart out in a Mini to show what a GP is like. Or Brundle and DC in golf buggies I suppose.

  • Pat W01/12/2012 at 14:32

    Good guide post. I'd forgotten (again) this was on today. Looking forward to it. :)

    Track guide: www.redbull.com/c…2-021243290869523

    Wow. That's the toughest one yet isn't it? What a way to start.

  • Christine01/12/2012 at 14:39

    Wow. That's the toughest one yet isn't it? What a way to start.

    That section by the bumpy bits... I mean, it looks like they're jumping directly at a tree. I'd be a bit nervous about that!

  • Pat W01/12/2012 at 14:40

    Round two is the same day as the Daytona 24 Hours. That'll give us a nice break. :)

  • Pat W01/12/2012 at 14:41

    Round two is the same day as the Daytona 24 Hours. That'll give us a nice break. :)

    And the finale same day as Sebring 12 Hours.

  • lou01/12/2012 at 14:44

    oohhhh, i've still not seen Crushed Ice, gotta try and catch it this time. :)

  • Pat W01/12/2012 at 14:58

    That section by the bumpy bits... I mean, it looks like they're jumping directly at a tree. I'd be a bit nervous about that!

    That's a bit scary! Mind you I can barely skate on a flat surface so the whole thing is mad to me.

  • Lukeh01/12/2012 at 15:01

    I am reeaaaallllllyy looking forward to this being back :)

  • Christine01/12/2012 at 15:01

    That's a bit scary! Mind you I can barely skate on a flat surface so the whole thing is mad to me.

    Oh yes, I'd love to have a go with a lot of padding and no one watching, just to see how long I could stay on my feet. My guess is about five seconds.

  • Mr C01/12/2012 at 15:07

    oohhhh, i've still not seen Crushed Ice, gotta try and catch it this time. :)

    never? you must!

  • Steven Roy01/12/2012 at 15:08

    Oh yes, I'd love to have a go with a lot of padding and no one watching, just to see how long I could stay on my feet. My guess is about five seconds.

    I think the second I let got of the start handles I would be travelling skates first

  • Christine01/12/2012 at 15:09

    I think the second I let got of the start handles I would be travelling skates first

    I like to think the momentum of the first downhill bit might help, but when you get to the bottom of that... well, then there's trouble.

  • Steven Roy01/12/2012 at 15:19

    I like to think the momentum of the first downhill bit might help, but when you get to the bottom of that... well, then there's trouble.

    That could work if you ignore the handles. I have a picture of me trying to push off and ending up leaning back to get as much of a push as possible while my feet appear in front of my eyes

  • Christine01/12/2012 at 15:21

    That could work if you ignore the handles. I have a picture of me trying to push off and ending up leaning back to get as much of a push as possible while my feet appear in front of my eyes

    Ah, I see. Showing off right from the start by trying to get some speed :)

  • Steven Roy01/12/2012 at 15:22

    Ah, I see. Showing off right from the start by trying to get some speed :)

    I don't know what you mean :)

  • lou01/12/2012 at 15:29

    never? you must!

    never. I think i've been in a thread or two before, but it's usually when i'm super busy with deadlines and i usually just forget. I think i tried and got buffering once. Will try again today while i plough through sketchbook work. This post has intrigued me, into this curious world :)

  • Lukeh01/12/2012 at 15:40

    never. I think i've been in a thread or two before, but it's usually when i'm super busy with deadlines and i usually just forget. I think i tried and got buffering once. Will try again today while i plough through sketchbook work. This post has intrigued me, into this curious world :)

    It's an amazing world of uncomfortable landings, crazy bumps and slippery overtaking!!

    Basically, it's Grosjean On Ice!

  • Mr C01/12/2012 at 15:51

    grosjean on ice!!!

  • Mr C02/12/2012 at 00:17

    live commenting thread for anyone watching. join us here - http://sidepodcast.com/event/crashed-ice-niagara-falls-red-bull-crashed-ice-world-championship-2013