Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Kerrzy’s Notebook: Edmontonian gears up for Crashed Ice finale

After stops in Germany, Holland and Russia, the Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship circuit wraps up this weekend in Quebec City!

Born in Stockholm, Sweden, back in 2001, Crashed Ice is a sport that has grown by leaps and bounds in the past 10 years, a fact that will be on full display this Saturday night when over 100,000 people line the streets of Old Quebec City to take it all in!

If you don’t know just what Crashed Ice is, let me fill you in: it’s basically a mixture of hockey and ski cross and it hits a level of awesomeness that you would have been previously unable to compute. The competitors, dressed in full hockey gear, line up at the top of a winding, downhill sheet of ice and race to the bottom!

Edmonton’s Gabriel Andre will be gunning for his second Quebec City title on Saturday, currently ranked ninth in the world. Andre won the big race back in 2006, the first guy not named Jasper Felder to win an event! Heading into this final race, he says it’s definitely a sport that takes its toll on the body.

“I’m pretty banged up right now, but it's like any sport - if you're any type of a hockey player, you know that when it's a 0-0 game in the third period, your intensity gets up there and there's not many people that I know who enjoy losing. Everybody wants to win, so the competitiveness in a person really comes out."

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Andre says the toughest part of the sport has to be the mental side of things – when you’re up at the top of the hill with thousands of excited people watching you, knowing that you’ve got to be at your best or you face an early exit.

“You don't want to be last, you don't want to be one of those guys that doesn't make it to the next heat or doesn't qualify high enough."

Each event features four elimination rounds to help whittle the number of competitors down to eight, with the top four heading to the main final and the other four competing in the small final.

Needless to say, making it to the podium at a Crashed Ice event certainly takes a lot! You might be wondering how you even train for something like this – Andre says it’s pretty tough, given how unique the sport is, but there are ways to mimic what you might encounter.

“Obviously you're going to do a lot of your regular on-ice routine stuff. Maybe doing some downhill skiing, maybe jumping into the moguls to prepare your knees and your body for how to react to a lot of the jumps and a lot of the different things. It involves a lot of compression, like the moguls do.”

If he ends up in this weekend’s final, don’t expect to see a jacked up Gabriel Andre rocking back and fourth in the gate though – he says it’s important to stay calm up there, a bit of advice he got from a friend of his who is a professional arm wrestler!

“When you go up into the gates, you're like an engine,” says Andre. “Some guys are just maxed right out and I find that a lot of your energy gets expelled just sitting there and waiting. The thought that's in my head is that I've got to smoke everybody out of these gates, but I've got to stay calm.”

“When it's time to step on the gas, that's when I'll expel my energy."

Check it out on Saturday night as Gabriel Andre looks to end the season on a strong note and Arttu Pihlainen battles Kyle Croxall for the overall 2011 title!

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