Arttu Pihlainen left the competition for dead in 2011 so he's the one they'll all be chasing when the new Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship gets underway in Saint Paul, USA, on January 12-14. Redbullcrashedice.com caught up with the champion to discuss the sport of ice cross downhill and got given a few tips along the way...
How would you describe Red Bull Crashed Ice to someone who’s not yet heard of it?
Ice cross downhill is like a combination of skiercross and boardercross, with four men at a time racing downhill on a huge track and the first guy to the bottom wins!
How has the sport of ice cross downhill progressed during the last two years?
I think it has become much more professional. A few years ago there were fewer skaters taking part as very few people had heard of the sport but now there is a lot of excitement surrounding its development. Red Bull have brought more attention to the sport which means that more skaters are taking part. It's progressing at a rapid rate.
What are you most looking forward to in next year’s World Championship?
The first race in Saint Paul will be very special. I want to do as well as last year but obviously I know that’s going to be very difficult. There will be a lot of new skaters taking part and even the older ones, they will have one more year of experience, so it's going to be very tough.
How will you be preparing for next year’s Red Bull Crashed Ice?
I have to keep myself in good shape all year round. I try to skate as much as possible. It helps as well if you can do some snowboarding or skiing. You need to be on the ice as much as possible. Yes, I'm the champion but that means I have to work just as hard to stay on top.
What skills most help you while on the ice? Is there a key to success or another sport that helps prepare you for ice cross downhill?
The most important thing is to have a good feeling for the ice. It’s hard to describe and really the only way you can develop that is to be on the ice as much as possible. It helps if you get a strong start so speed and jumping exercises will help you as well. The fast start is very important, you need acceleration in your muscles. A strong background in ice hockey is a good basis for the sport but there are still a lot of ice hockey players who can’t compete as they are not used to going downhill. Snowboarding and alpine skiing are the two sports that if you are strong at those then it stands you in good stead.
What equipment do you use for a race? Do you have a favourite pair of skates, for example?
I use fairly standard ice hockey equipment, although it helps if they're a little bit lighter than normal. Ice cross downhill’s a quicker sport so you do not want to be carrying bulky equipment. The blades I like to use are bandy blades which are a little bit different. They have a longer straight part of the blade which helps with your balance.