The sport of Ice Cross Downhill reached new heights in the recently completed 2015/16 season with more athletes than ever before taking part in a record number of races on some of the most difficult natural and man-made downhill ice tracks created. A growing number of athletes from 20 countries and five continents training all-year round also gave the world's fastest sport on skates an important dynamic in its 16th season that featured 10 races in six countries: the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Finland and Austria. It was also the biggest season for women with a full 10-race season.
Cameron Naasz became the first American to win the Ice Cross Downhill World Championship on the strength of his three victories in four of the Red Bull Crashed Ice races while Canada's Scott Croxall, the 2015 World Champion, was in the title fight and hot on his heels right up to the final round of the final race of the season in Saint Paul, Minnesota –thanks to his win at the Red Bull Crashed Ice race in Jyväskylä-Laajis, Finland and his brilliant performances in the six Riders Cup races, a new competition introduced last season to give more athletes a chance to gain experience in the sport. Naasz, who took off-season training to a new level last summer with a grueling regime of daily workouts, became the seventh different World Champion from six different countries in the last seven years to carve his name into the record book after Germany's Martin Niefnecker (2010), Finland's Arttu Pihlainen (2011), Canada's Kyle Croxall (2012), Switzerland's Derek Wedge (2013), Austria's Marco Dallago (2014) and Canada's Scott Croxall (2015).
"I'm stoked to come out on top of the sport that is getting more and more serious," said Naasz, who finally ended up on top after finishing in second place overall in 2015 and third place in 2014. Naasz got off to a flying start with his victory in the season opener at Quebec City, which hosted the race for a 10th time and has staged more races than any other venue. "I started strong this year with wins in Quebec City and Munich, but I stumbled a bit through the middle of the season and in the Riders Cup. Scott had the overall lead going into the final race in Saint Paul so the pressure was on me knowing that I had to be in front of him to win it all. I'm going to come back next year and try to do the same thing. But it's going to be harder to defend the title than it was to win it. There's more pressure now and all the guys are going to be gunning for me. Hopefully I can work hard in the off-season and be back just as powerful next year."
Naasz also won in Munich, which had the fastest track ever with riders setting record speeds of 82 km/h before Croxall rallied with a heart-stopping victory in Jyväskylä-Laajis, Finland on the longest track (630 meters) ever in the history of the sport to keep his title hopes alive before Naasz prevailed at home in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Croxall vowed to go all out with his off-season training to win back his title for Canada. "I'll train a little harder in the off-season and try to catch him next winter." The increased intensity of the training in the off-season was one of the major changes in the 2015/16 season The sport's top athletes trained up to 20 hours a week throughout the off-season and some, such as Dean and Dylan Moriarity, took part in specialized training sessions with professional hockey players to raise their game in Ice Cross Downhill.
It was also a breakout season for Canada's Dean Moriarity, who finished third overall, as it was for France's Tristan Dugerdil, who took fourth and was Europe's top athlete, while his compatriot Pacôme Schmitt was a strong sixth. Austria's Luca Dallago was a force to be reckoned with all season long after he got his career-first win at the Riders Cup race in Wagrain-Kleinarl, Austria and took fifth while American Maxwell Dunne, who trained in the off season with Naasz, was seventh. Switzerland's Kilian Braun had a strong comeback after struggling in recent seasons and took eighth.
Jacqueline Legere, a Canadian stuntwoman, was crowned the women's Ice Cross Downhill World Champion ahead of American Alexis Jackson. With more races than ever before, the women's races were more competitive and exciting than ever before with dramatic scenes and breathtaking passing maneuvers.
"It feels amazing," said Legere. "I can't wait to try to hang onto the title next year and I'll obviously train hard all summer."
WATCH IT AGAIN: If you missed the thrilling action of the season finale, watch Red Bull Crashed Ice Saint Paul again on Red Bull TV and redbullcrashedice.com. Red Bull TV is available on connected TVs, gaming consoles, mobile devices and more. For a full list of supported devices, visit about.redbull.tv.
Men's final standings: 1. Cameron Naasz (USA) 3,385 points, 2. Scott Croxall (CAN) 3,150, 3. Dean Moriarity (CAN) 2,300, 4. Tristan Dugerdil (FRA) 1,960, 5. Luca Dallago (AUT) 1,617, 6. Pacôme Schmitt (FRA) 1,445, 7. Maxwell Dunne (USA) 1,337, 8. Kilian Braun (SUI) 1,320, 9. Kyle Croxall (CAN) 1,220, 10. John Fisher (CAN) 1,082.50
Women's final standings: 1. Jacqueline Legere (CAN) 2,800 points, 2. Myriam Trepanier (CAN) 2,300, 3. Alexis Jackson (USA) 2,300, 4. Elaine Topolnisky (CAN), 1,700, 5. Sydney O'Keefe (USA) 1,500, 6. Maxie Plante (CAN) 1,450, 7. Tamara Kajah (CAN) 1,250, 8. Amanda Trunzon (USA) 1,080, 9. Michaela Michaelson (USA) 1,060, 10. Anais Morand (SUI) 800.