Thousands of spectators cheered as Canadian Gabriel Andre skated past the finish line at the extreme sporting event appropriately named Crashed Ice on Saturday night in Quebec City.
“It’s an incredible feeling, I can’t even find the words,” said Andre in reaction to his victory, “I came to win, and it happened.”
Crashed Ice, an extreme sport combining hockey, downhill skating and boardercross, is a unique event held annually by the makers of Red Bull energy drink. Four skaters race down a 400m long ice track with a 34m vertical drop. The athletes reach speeds up to 50km per hour while manoeuvring around jumps, obstacles, and sharp turns. After kicking off in Stockholm, Sweden in 2000, Crashed Ice has since been held all over the world: in Austria (2001), Minnesota (2003, 2004), Russia (2004), and Czech Republic (2005). This past Saturday marked the event’s seventh run and, more significantly, its debut in Canada.
The track was a sight to be seen as it stood illuminated in the heart of Old Quebec, beginning at La Porte Saint-Louis, winding through and around the city’s fortified walls and finally reaching its end point at Plan d’Youville.
“The whole setup was unbelievable!” said Montreal Crashed Ice athlete and past Concordia student Marc-Andre Leger. “The place where they put the track was unbelievable.”
Qualifications for this extreme event were held in 12 regions across Canada, including Montreal, which had 12 athletes representing the city among the 100 athletes competing this weekend. The 100 athletes were composed of 70 Canadians, 15 invitational athletes, and 15 international athletes. Among them was previously undefeated six-time Crashed Ice champion Jasper Felder of Sweden.
Athletes from all over the country as well as from overseas were flown in throughout the week, all arriving in time for the first qualifying round held Friday night, in which 100 athletes were narrowed down to 64. Felder was second going into the first round of finals Saturday night; Andre was ranked thirteenth. Sixty-four athletes were narrowed down to 32, then 32 down to 16, then eight and at last four. The final run came down to Felder defending his title against three other Canadians: Wade Hacking of British Colombia, Sylvain Houle of Ontario, and Andre of Saskatchewan. Early on in the run after the first curve, much to the crowd’s surprise, Felder fell, leaving the title inevitably up to a Canadian. National pride erupted as Andre, Hacking (finishing second place), and Houle (finishing third) completed the track in close succession.
Many of the other Crashed Ice athletes were happy to see a new face claim the Crashed Ice title and a podium full of Canadians. Along with the opportunity to defend his championship in 2007 in Boston, Andre was awarded $5000. Felder, who showed extreme disappointment and frustration at his loss of a long-held Crashed Ice title, already plans on winning his title back from Andre in Boston.
Throughout the weekend many commended Red Bull for the evolution of this innovative event. Charlie Wasley, a Crashed Ice athlete from Minnesota who competed this weekend for the fourth time in the international event, commented on how the company has made considerable improvements and additions to the track, making it fresh and a little more challenging every year.
“It’s a track you just want to do again and again!” said Leger on his way back to Montreal, “It’s hard to go home now and back to reality.” When asked if he would consider attending qualifications for Boston in 2007, he eagerly responded: “If I could, I would do it again right now.”