Jasper Felder (SWE) is not just a living legend of Red Bull Crashed Ice – he is the living legend of Red Bull Crashed Ice. The Swede, who has been a part of it since the very first event back in 2000, is the only athlete with six back-to-back wins to his name and still belongs to the sport’s elite. In an interview Felder talks about the history of the event, rivalry and friendship on and away from the ice, and how he certainly hasn’t had enough of Ice Cross Downhill.
Jasper, everybody in Red Bull Crashed Ice knows you as the living legend of the sport – after all you won six events in a row! What does it feel like to have that sort of status? Have things changed over time?
Yeah, back in the day that was probably true that I was the big hero. Nowadays more people know what the sport is – they see it on YouTube, on TV and stuff like that. I also think there are more good hockey players who want to do it these days. Back then I was so much younger! It’s been a while – I’ve been skating Red Bull Crashed Ice for eight years now, so of course I was faster back then (laughs).
Ice Cross Downhill is like no other sport out there. How do you prepare for an event? Are you doing any special training ahead of the upcoming events?
It is hard to do any special training; the only thing I do is skate a lot – around three or four times a week, sometimes more. To be honest, getting ready for Red Bull Crashed Ice is more of a mind game – it’s just a completely different thing.
Is there any trick to being fast on the ice? What would you say is the most important element?
It depends. On some courses you have to be fast at the start, because if you’re third out of the gate you are pretty much done. There are other courses where it doesn’t matter if you are third or even fourth coming away from the start.
Having already won six events in a row and the race in Lausanne (CH, 2009), people could argue that you have nothing to win and everything to lose.
Back in the day I thought “If I don’t win then a fourth place doesn’t interest me at all.” Nowadays it is different: I’m shooting for the Final – if I reach that then I am happy. Then, anything can happen! You never know.
Finland consistently produces excellent athletes, and most of your main competitors are from northern climes. Why do you think the Finnish skaters are so strong?
Well, first of all they are really good hockey players, who have all played in the highest division in hockey. They know how to skate, and they are good skiers too!
Red Bull Crashed Ice is a tough sport where you have to focus 100%. Are you good friends with the other competitors, or is there a lot of real rivalry between athletes?
That is the cool thing about Red Bull Crashed Ice. In the beginning you always have groups who go around with each other, like the Finnish guys and me, but then over time you pick up new friends. At the start people may think “Oh, there is Jasper”, or “Oh, there is Arttu Pihlainen from Finland” and think we are stuck up, but we like to teach them how to skate, because we want this sport to become bigger. So it’s not good to be an asshole! It’s all about being an honest guy – if they have a question then I am more than pleased to help them.
On the track we are competitors and everyone wants to win.
Do you have special skates you use for Crashed Ice?
They’re not special –they are just for my sport, bandy [a game similar to ice-hockey played mainly in Sweden]. I have longer blades; I go for flat grind, whereas the hockey guys go for hollow grind. That may give me a little better glide, but at the same time they have better edge grip. There was a guy two years ago in Canada who said “Hey, that’s cheating”, so I said to him “Go ahead, try my skates”. He didn’t want to try them, but his friend did and said “I’m never going down there on those ever again! That is the worst thing I have ever tried!” They are just normal skates for my sport.
Red Bull Crashed Ice has come a long way since the first event back in 2000 in Sweden (Stockholm). How has the sport developed over the years?
Back at the first event we didn’t even know if the sport would be a success or not – nobody had ever tried it before! It turned out well: people came to watch and take part and said “Wow, this is cool!” I was fired up and asked the guys immediately if they were thinking about having another event, and they said “Yeah, hopefully.” The next event was then at Klagenfurt, and we went from having a 120-metre course in Sweden to 400 metres in Klagenfurt – going down a ski hill! That was amazing.
Watching Red Bull Crashed Ice on TV or even live, it looks incredibly dangerous. Tell us the truth: how hard is Red Bull Crashed Ice really?
It looks insane – everybody comes up to me and says “How do you do that? It looks crazy”. I’ve been skating since I was two-and-a-half years old, and during the winter as a kid I skated every day, because I lived just five minutes from the rink. I can skate just like I can walk – I know exactly what I am doing. When I see the skiers and snowboarders doing backflips I think it looks insane, but for them it is nothing special. At the end of the day it is all about training and proper preparation.
Still, you must have had some pretty bad injuries over the years. What would you say was your worst?
The biggest one was in Prague, I think it was in 2005. During practice ahead of the race I asked the organisers if I could go down the course one last time. I was up there and I remember thinking that I would really give it 100%. I started, but after two strides I felt something go. I thought I had pulled my groin, so I kept skating down to the bottom, but it really hurt. On race day I woke up and it looked like I had half an orange sticking out of my leg! I didn’t want to be a wuss, so I went and raced. In the Final I was so pumped up with adrenaline that I didn’t feel it – I just thought to myself “You have to really go for it now!” I won the title, came back home and went to see the doctor. He said to me “You know what, your leg muscle is torn.” I had torn off my leg muscle all the way from the knee up! I had surgery straight away, and I’ve got a 30 cm scar. That’s the only real injury I have had so far.
One last question: you have been fortunate to have so few injuries over the course of a long career, but how dangerous is Red Bull Crashed Ice for the competitors? What would you say are the most common injuries suffered by racers?
Like I said before, there is definitely a certain danger to racing in Red Bull Crashed Ice, but modern protective clothing makes it a lot safer than it may look. Having said that, it certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t get hurt out there! Some of the most common injuries would be bruising and twisted limbs. Everything happens so fast out there on the track, so if you put just one foot wrong you can find yourself in the crash barriers.