Ice cross downhill: four athletes skating down a steep, obstacle-ridden ice course, going as fast as they possibly can without tripping or falling over their competitors. In the minute or so it takes to complete the course, anything can happen.
To say that the atmosphere at the ice cross world championships was adrenaline-charged would be an understatement.
The ice cross downhill season starts in December and culminates in March with Red Bull Crashed Ice, the world’s championship event. This past weekend, about 100,000 spectators gathered in Quebec City to watch 170 men and 127 women with backgrounds in hockey, skiing, bobsledding, and mountain biking compete for the title of world champion.
This year’s track was not for the faint of heart: at 575 metres long, it included flights of stairs and sharp 180-degree turns, after which the athletes had to stop and start again.
McGill student and ice cross downhill athlete Corey Taber said the track was “super fun, but way harder than it looks.”
Athlete Jodran Fuder agreed. “It was fast, and probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done,” he said.
According to Christian Papillon, sports director of the Championship and a former ice cross skater, the minute it takes to race through the course is exhausting.
“It seems like it’s nothing just thinking about it, but if you can try once to just run as fast as you can, jumping down stairs and running uphill for one minute, full energy, you will understand,” he said.
Canadians Kyle Croxall and Fannie Desforges took the world championship titles in the men’s and women’s races, respectively.
Croxall won the world championship for the season after finishing in second place in an exciting race, giving him 3000 points for the season. The men’s competition is comprised of four events with athletes from all over the world and events taking place in Europe as well as Canada.
The women’s competition is not yet as extensive as the men’s competition. Quebec City is the only event that features a women’s race. Desforges won the race at Quebec City and, on the strength of winning the only race, was named the world champion, but there is no season or points system like that of the men’s league.
The annual championship began in Quebec in 2006, but women weren’t a part of the event until 2009. Since then, they’ve been a force to be reckoned with.
According to Fuder, “[The women] are just as crazy [as the men], if not crazier… I know the sport is evolving and more women are getting involved, and it’s a great thing to see.”
The women who participate in Crashed Ice can only be described as tough. As one Red Bull Crashed Ice press release states, the sport is “not for ice princesses.”
“It’s true,” said athlete Marquise Brisebois, who placed third in the women’s championship on Saturday. “You can’t be on the track and fear something. If you do, you’re going to fall, or do something to injure yourself.”
“You have to throw it out there and go for it,” she continued. “If you don’t go for it, you’ll be last…. You can’t be a princess while you’re out there because there are three other people that want to get in front of you.”
Brisebois comes from a bobsled background, which, according to Papillon, gives her a powerful edge in the competition.
“She’s really powerful because she had to push a bobsled with the team really, really quick, and so I’d say that’ll probably help her,” he said.
For Brisebois, the big challenge in the competition was stamina.
“It’s exhausting,” she said. “Your thighs burn, your quads are just on fire. When you’re at the end you just want to push more and you feel like you don’t have any stamina left.”
Most importantly, she said, “you can’t stop,” because if anything’s true in this sport, it’s that “it’s not finished until you cross the finish line.”