It seems appropriate that the sport combining the structure of downhill skiing with ice skates and four competitors who often crash into each other on their race to the finish would be sponsored by the extreme energy drink Red Bull. And if you haven't heard about the sport, you're likely to soon.
The Wall Street Journal describes ice cross downhill as a mixture of ice hockey, motor cross and roller derby. Since 2001, Red Bull has hosted a championship series for the sport -- Red Bull Crashed Ice -- after it took off in Stockholm, Sweden, gaining interest with teams from around the globe. The sport originated when two Austrian athletes decided to wear ice skates down an icy ski slope, according to the Journal.
Watch the Wall Street Journal footage of the 2012 Red Bull Crashed Ice in Saint Paul, Minn., where racers started off with a three-story ramp:
Red Bull describes the sport as "a steep downhill track dotted with chicanes, jumps and rollers" with four competitors shoulder-to-shoulder "pushing, sliding, sprinting and wrangling." First one to the bottom wins. Skaters often reach up to 40 miles per hour.
Taking the top spot at the competition this year in Saint Paul was Canadian Kyle Croxall with 1,000 points. Second went to Arttu Pihlainen from Finland, and Canadian Scott Croxall sailed into third. Watch this highlight real where Kyle beat out defending champion Pihlainen with more than 80,000 viewers at the event:
According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. team targeted hockey players at first but has since been branching out to cultivate the ultimate ice cross downhill team:
For last year's championship, U.S. coach Charlie Wasley, a former college hockey star, assembled a team from college hockey rosters. "We were horrible," the 37-year-old said of the Americans' 16th out of 20 finish. It made him realize something: "You don't catch air in hockey."
This time, Mr. Wasley cast a broader net, looking for those who excel in various extreme and winter sports. His team draws on experience in motocross, snowboarding, in-line skating, BMX biking and gymnastics, among other sports. "Guys who have raced before are more fearless," he said.
Tigh Isaac, a 23-year-old speedskating Olympic hopeful, is the new prototype. He has years of experience in hockey, ski jumping, mountain biking and racing sport bikes and go-carts. The result is "one super athlete," he said, "for lack of a better word."
David Kron, 34, a snowboarder, water-skier and hockey player, broke his neck and back on a dirt bike in 2007, but is eager to try his mettle. After taking a bad spill on the icy course this week, he felt woozy, but got back into line for another run "because I told so many people I was going to do this."
The two other U.S. team members are brothers, Danny and Andrew Bergeson, who have experience in ice hockey and skiboarding. The brothers took sixth and seventh place at this year's event.
According to the Wall Street Journal, this year's 446-yard course was hailed as the toughest yet with a 45 degree angle hill, a 90 degree turn and a 16-foot high banked U-turn, taking less than a minute to complete. Here's a play-by-play of the course:
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