Last Saturday, Swedish slopestyle specialist Martin Söderström entered Red Bull Joyride with a full head of steam. Coming off three FMB Tour victories plus a win at the Whistler Crankworx Dual Speed & Style earlier in the week, the stylish rider soon found himself in a battle for first place with hometown hero Brandon Semenuk.
On the final jump of a simply perfect run, Söderström crashed hard, breaking his tibia and fibula just above the ankle (watch the crash here starting around the 8:50 mark -- warning: it's gnarly). He was rushed to Vancouver for emergency surgery and is awaiting the doctor’s OK to return home to Sweden. We spoke with him while he was killing time to find out what went down.
What were your thoughts on this year's Red Bull Joyride course?
Every year I’ve been pretty open about my feelings about the courses. I’m not gonna lie -- I have been very upset in past years. I don't think people understand how frustrating it’s been for the riders to prepare for a contest for the whole year and have all your biggest tricks dialed in, but when you get there you realize that you can't even do tricks you learned two years ago.
That being said, this year’s course was love from first sight! It was a perfect mix of different obstacles: small, big and flowy. So you had to be an all-around, consistent rider to do well there, which I really like! I had such a blast riding it from start to finish.
I knew from the beginning that if there was one hit you didn't want to crash on it was the last one.
You looked like you were having a ton of fun in the Best Trick comp, and then your first Joyride run was so dialed, and your second run was elevated even more. Were you feeling better this year compared to years past?
I rely on confidence; when I feel good on the bike and on a course I get fired up and just ride better, but it’s also the opposite way. When I don't feel it I start to doubt myself. This year I didn´t feel doubt at all. I was going into Crankworx with three straight world tour wins then started off with a win in the Speed & Style. It was a perfect way to build my confidence up. Then I was just going with the flow and had fun riding. So the confidence and the course were there, but I still got second so maybe I am just not good enough? [laughter]
What were your thoughts going into the second run? How were you feeling?
I couldn't have asked for a better feeling, actually. I was secured a second-place finish and could only go for the win.
Did you feel that Semenuk's almost-seven-point lead going into run two was fair? It was a huge deficit to overcome.
I don't know if I have been in the sport long enough to know that you shouldn't look too much at the score. I thought it was fair that he beat me with that run so I didn´t think about by how much…just how I could take back that first-place spot.
Compared to your competitors, you get inverted less in competition. Is this a conscious choice? A statement? Or just a preference for spins?
It´s no secret that I’m not a big fan of flips. I just don't find them that much fun. But going into this year I realized that I need them to win contests for the variety of the run, which is fair enough. So even if I don't have that much fun doing them, I find it pretty fun to win so I guess it's just time to suck it up and do them.
The footage from your crash is pretty horrific. Can you walk us through your run leading up to it and the crash itself?
I knew from the beginning that if there was one hit you didn't want to crash on it was the last one. Those snowboard–style step-downs are always dangerous because you come in with so much speed and they launch you very high. We had pretty much the same feature on the course a few years ago when [Darren] Berrecloth and Semenuk got hurt.
But I also knew that it was the spot I could gain the most points on Semenuk to take the win so I went for it. The run worked out pretty much exactly as planned, with a barspin off the wall that no one else really tricked and also a triple tailwhip in one of the big doubles. But it was definitely the last feature I was thinking about the whole way down.
Taking off from the last lip, everything felt just fine. The 360 and the two tailwhips came around just as planned, but I guess I was a little too pumped up from the run and was going just a bit too fast, and boom! Haven't felt that much pain in my life before.
What does recovery look like for you? How long will it be and what will it take to get back to top form?
It's so short after the crash so I have just been fighting the pain and not thinking too much about the comeback. I am just happy the surgery worked out well and my leg is feeling better and better each day. I’m not too worried about physio hours…just stoked to get out of the bed and move again.
I think it helps a lot being from Sweden when you get injured, because during the winter we have so much snow we can't really ride for five-to-six months anyway, so three months off the bike feels like a piece of cake. Now I am just praying that the leg is going to feel like [it did] before; I’m going to be very motivated going into the winter season.
I have been very lucky with injuries in the past with not more than a week off the bike, so I think this will definitely help me in the long run to see things differently and maybe play it smarter next time.