In the eight seasons since the Ice Cross Downhill World Championship was created in 2010, there have been seven different champions – a reflection of the intense competition and dynamic developments at the top of the world's fastest sport on skates. The only double world champion is American Cameron Naasz, the reigning title holder who made history on Saturday in Ottawa as the only back-to-back champ by winning it all in 2016/17 as well as 2015/16.
Here is a look at all seven world champions:
Martin Niefnecker (GER) – 2010.
The German won the first world championship on the strength of his victory at home in Munich (GER) and getting on the podium with second place at the second and final race of that season in Quebec City, Canada. "It was a great moment for me to win the world championship," said Niefnecker. Niefnecker has taken part in more than 30 Red Bull Crashed Ice races since 2009, making him one of the most experienced racers in the championship.
Arttu Pihlainen (FIN) – 2011.
The flying Finn dominated the second world championship in 2012, winning three of the four races with victories in Valkenburg (NED), Moscow (RUS) and Quebec City (CAN) after losing the season opener in Munich to Kyle Croxall. Pihlainen's lightning fast starts out of the gate made him almost unstoppable at the peak of his career in 2012 and he set a standard for speed at the start that has become an essential cornerstone for the success of every champion since 2012.
Kyle Croxall (CAN) – 2012.
The powerful Canadian dominated the first half of the season with wins in Saint Paul (USA) and Valkenburg (NED) but watched his once big lead in the championship melt away in the second half of the season as Adam Horst (CAN) won a topsy-turvy, crashed-filled final in Are, Sweden and Pihlainen (FIN) won the season finale in Quebec City. But Kyle, a firefighter, managed to just barely snatch second place in Quebec City and win just enough points for the title after his younger brother Scott, in second position at the time, crashed into the boards just before the finish line. "It meant a lot to me to be the best in the sport that year," said Kyle Croxall. "I put in a lot of training in the off season. To be the best is a great feeling."
Derek Wedge (SUI) – 2012/13.
The Swiss ski instructor surprised everyone, perhaps himself as well, by winning the world championship in 2012. It was looking like Kyle Croxall and Arttu Pihlainen would be the only race winners ever after they won 10 of the previous races from mid-2010 to mid-2012. But then Wedge took first at Landgraaf (NED), American Cameron Naasz won his first race in Lausanne (SUI) and Pihlainen (FIN) won the finale in Quebec City – giving Wedge just enough points for the title.
Marco Dallago (AUT) – 2014.
The Austrian seemed to cement a certain European dominance of the sport in 2014 with an incredibly successful season – three wins in four races: Helsinki (FIN), Saint Paul (USA) and Quebec City (CAN). Dallago only joined the sport two seasons before that but polished his skills in grueling off-season workouts. Dallago took quick starts to the next level with talent and hard work. Naasz's second career win in Moscow (RUS) was the sole blemish on an otherwise perfect season. "It was special to win the championship in 2014 because I prepared so hard for that season," said Dallago. "I put a lot of really hard work into it."
Scott Croxall (CAN) – 2015.
The Canadian with so much natural talent for Ice Cross Downhill finally got his first career win in 2015 with a thumping victory in Helsinki (FIN) that ended an improbably long luckless streak in the finals, and then went on to take first in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Croxall held onto to win the championship with second place at the season finale in Edmonton (CAN), staving off a late surge from Naasz, who got his third career win in Edmonton. "It meant everything to me," said Scott Croxall, who finally moved out from the shadows of his older brother Kyle. "Winning the championship was the reason I joined the sport. I didn't think it would take that long, six long years. It was worth the wait. I couldn't have been happier."
Cameron Naasz (USA) – 2015/16 and 2016/17.
The American became the first ever to win back-to-back championships with dominant performances over the last two seasons. Powered by rigorous pre-season training camps and a tireless drive to improve, Naasz won three of the four Red Bull Crashed Ice races in 2015/16 in Munich (GER), Jyväskylä (FIN) and Saint Paul (USA) as well as two of the four in 2015/16 in Marseille (FRA) and Ottawa (CAN) to take the two championships. Naasz was a man on a mission, determined to become the first to win the title twice in a row. He also became the most successful racer of all time with eight career wins. "It's getting harder all the time," said Naasz. "The field is getting stronger every year and everyone is training hard in the off-season. I'm happy that I was able to remain consistent. I'd like to win it 10 times. I'm up to the challenge."