In Red Bull Crashed Ice (www.redbullcrashedice.com), skaters descend on a course at speeds of approximately 70 km (45 mph) four-at-a-time, jostling for position to be one of the two racers going through to the next round.
The event is held in knockout format, and the field of 64 riders starting the main event is whittled down to just four athletes competing for the title in the Final.
While physical contact is not officially permitted, the high speeds and course challenges make for spectacular action and plenty of crashes. Crowds have exceeded 100,000 spectators at several events, and the skaters expectations are that the fan base will continue to increase, as the media crush is now giving them their due respect. I for one am a huge fan of this sport, and look forward to attending many of the upcoming events.
Cameron Naasz was kind enough to give me some time from his busy training schedule, and offer me an insight into his background, and how he ended up so quickly as a name to watch in this sport. He finished on the podium several times this season, and was the leader in points going into the final event in Quebec City.
It was not an easy course, and due to some complications at the starting gate in the round of 32, Cameron was then eliminated from the event.
His amazing point totals from previous events landed him on the final podium for a 3rd place finish.
I could tell that Cameron had a sense of pride in his accomplishment, and will refine whatever details in training are necessary for him to reign supreme in seasons to come. I really enjoyed speaking with him, and he really came off as someone you would want to root for, and follow in his pursuit.
Cameron was born and raised outside of Minnesota, in Lake Grove, and from the earliest days said hockey was his thing growing up. Playing Shinny on the pond with his friends was the ultimate escape.
No parents, No refs, just a bunch people out in the freezing cold weather. For the non-hockey lover, Shinny is just a pickup game, where you need to keep the puck below the shins for goal scoring purposes. Cameron talked so fondly about those times and the bonding that goes on with your friends in those youth formative years.
Today there are annual pond hockey tournaments that go on, where friends will set up teams with their childhood friends, and I’ve seen myself the highlights on ESPN, where the ages of some of these guys out there on blades were more for retirement time, than playing out on the ice reliving their childhood passions. He told me that he had a buddy, 5 doors down from him that had a rink in his backyard.
Making the best of each situation is the message that I will try and pass on throughout Cameron’s Chapter, as that is what he’s all about, as you’ll see. Going into his senior year of high school, he was kicked off of the Hockey Team for a few transgressions, and ended up playing for Junior Gold Hockey, which was for skaters that didn’t make their high school team. They ended up winning State that year, and he said it’s a memory he’ll cherish forever.
Cameron was told by his girlfriend at the time about it, maybe 3 weeks before an event last season, was coming to St. Paul. So they decide they go and check it out, get a hotel, have a few beers or whatever, and then he gets a call from an old buddy from his Junior Gold Hockey days, who happened to work for Red Bull, that he should come out to St. Paul and do the event.
He was offered a prospect pass, and a free entry into the event. Cameron said he was a little hesitant at first since he hadn’t been skating on a regular basis, but ended up relenting, and showed up on that Thursday for a time trial, and hasn’t looked back since.
No one will ever be able to take away the feeling of being the first American to win an event, as he did in Lausanne, Switzerland this past season, and I asked him his feeling coming down those last 15 yards, knowing he’d won.
He told me his first thoughts were to make sure he finished the race strong, and win it, and then let it all out, with hands raised, pride in making history. In the earlier events of Niagara Falls, and his home state of Minnesota, he had led the final races, and then got caught in the last couple of corners, not for any pre-celebratory cockiness, just got caught, but It wasn’t going to happen this time.
In closing Cameron told me that he truly believes that this can and will be an Olympic winter sport, and that it will take just getting an even wider base of fans than they currently have, and that some big companies step up and believe in the product.
It all goes back to those days of just being a kid on the pond, skating with friends, and now he stands amongst the elite of this new sport.