irko Lahti of Finland came out on top in the Red Bull Crashed Ice Junior World Championship race on Friday in the season-opener in Saint Paul. The defending champion in the junior competition for 16-21 year olds was in a league by himself, winning every heat from the round of 32 to the quarter-finals and semi-finals before once again dominating the four-man final for the fourth straight race.
"I've been training hard all off season and I've got a lot of confidence," said Lahti, who said his goal is to remain unbeaten in all four Red Bull Crashed Ice Junior races this year -- and to at least make it into the final four of the men's open competition as well. He jumped into the lead by the first big turn, the BF Goodrich Grip Turn, and never looked back.
In his first-ever Junior race, American Richie "Jo Jo" Velasquez came storming from behind to snatch second place to the delight of the big home crowd gathered to watch the action in the world's fastest sport on skates on the track in front of the Saint Paul Cathedral. "I got something I wanted -- second place -- so it was a really good experience overall," said Velasquez, who is just 17 years old. Finland's Joni Saarinen finished third in the Junior World Championship race – a new competition created last season to introduce more athletes to the sport.
Mirko Lahti picked right up where he left off last season with another unstoppable performance. Ryan Taylor/Red Bull Content Pool.
Canada's Steve Cox won top honors in the freestyle competition after bringing the crowd to its feet with a series of dazzling moves in the side act– including two impeccable Misty Fives.
"This is the best day of my life," said Cox after earning his first freestyle win. "It's amazing. It feels great."
Steven Cox showed off his best tricks to win the Freestyle competition. Photo: Ryan Taylor/Red Bull Content Pool.
A new Last-Chance-Qualifier competition on Friday gave those racers who finished between 33rd and 80th in the Shootout earlier in the day a chance to earn one of the remaining 32 spots available for Saturday's finals. American Dan Witty rallied from fourth place to first in the final with a stunning comeback at the very end of the race when the three athletes in front of him stumbled on or just after the final jump.
"I knew I just had to stay on my feet and luck was in my favor," said Witty.
Junior World Championship
1. Mirko Lahti (FIN)
2. Richie 'Jo Jo' Velasquez (USA)
3. Joni Saarinen (FIN)
4. Jesse Sauren (FIN)
Winner - Steven Cox
Watch Live from Saint Paul
Red Bull Crashed Ice Saint Paul will broadcast LIVE on redbullcrashedice.com and Red Bull TV on January 20 at 8 PM local time (2 AM GMT).
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.
If you miss the event or simply want to watch all the action again, the replay will be available on demand a few minutes after the event.