The third Red Bull Crashed Ice stop of the 2015/16 season is nearly upon us in Jyväskylä's Laajis Ski resort in Finland. The championship leading American Cameron Naasz already has an opportunity to secure his first ice cross downhill world championship title on the record-breaking 630-meter long track, but first he has a strong obstacle to overcome – A furious pack of fearless Finns acts as hosts in the natural ice track in Finland and they have only one objective for the race: to return the ice cross downhill throne back to Finland. North Americans have marched astonishingly from victory to victory this season in the series, but in Finland the blue-and-white gladiators will try to stop Naasz and his fellow compatriots in front of thousands of Finnish fans.
Klintrup, Jouhkimainen, Juola, Lehto, Tolvanen, Heikkilä, Miettinen, Heino... There's a long list of ice-tough Finns in the world ranking top 64 who are still looking for a 100% performance this season. What better place to step back up on top of the podium than in front of thousands of fans in the home crowd. The Jyväskylä-Laajis stop is the highlight of the season for all the Finns and the date was marked in the calendar as soon as the schedule for this season was revealed.
"I have definitely waited for this race the most," says Miikka Jouhkimainen – the only member of Team Finland who has managed to win a Red Bull Crashed Ice event in his career. However the last win is from 2009. "I took the red marker pen and circled this date as soon as I saw the schedule for this season. Personally I have huge expectations for this race."
We are not here to play, we are here to win!
The best Finn so far this season, Paavo Klintrup, says the same as his colleague.
"Home race is a huge deal for me. There's a lot of friends and family in the crowd and they don't have to follow the race online or through TV. I can hear the home crowd cheer and chant blasting to the track and it really pushes me forward. We are not here to play, we are here to win!" says determined Klintrup.
Skating in front of his home town crowd, the Jyväskylä based member of Team Finland, Markus Juola has suffered from injuries this season but has now recovered to full strength – just in time for his home race.
"I have awesome feeling about this weekend. I really want to show my best and be able to succeed well. I'm going to put all in and skate full throttle. Extra fears and tension can be left aside – this is truly the place where I can enjoy the situation. Living in the moment is the key to success," says Juola with a smile on his face about his home town's world class event.
By taking victory and the full 1000 points in Jyväskylä-Laajis, Cameron Naasz from USA can secure his first ice cross downhill World Title. Naasz has won both of the two previous Red Bull Crashed Ice events this season and performed well in the Riders Cup too. He's almost got one hand on the world title but the Finns still have their say in this. The Finns have only one goal: returning back to the top is the only option.
According to Miikka Jouhkimainen, anything can happen on the giant track of Jyväskylä-Laajis. But whoever wins the race, it's due to hard work in the off-season and during the season.
"This track requires a lot better stamina than any other track ever before. The last 15 to 20 seconds are a true challenge for your legs. Pumping speed on the last rollers really makes your legs burn. You'll feel exhausted in the finish area."
With a 100 % performance I will stand on the top of the podium.
In the Riders Cup race last weekend in Rautalampi, Jouhkimainen was dropped out of the race in the round of 32. He is determined not to let this happen again.
"Rautalampi really got to me. I got really pissed off with that – In Jyväskylä there's going to be a whole lot different Miikka on the track."
How does Jouhkimainen fancy his chances on home soil?
"With a 100% performance I will stand on the top of the podium."
Get the tickets to Jyväskylä-Laajis here!