Mirko Lahti of Finland clinched the Ice Cross Downhill Juniors World Championship on Friday with his third straight victory this season after mastering a terrifyingly difficult 340-meter long artificial ice track set up near the Mediterranean port of Marseille. Extending his domination of the competition for 16 to 21-year-old racers, Lahti won his sixth consecutive Red Bull Crashed Ice race by beating up-and-coming American Richie "Jo Jo" Velasquez into second place. Russia's Dmitriy Murlychkin took a strong third place in the sport where four athletes at a time race downhill at speeds of up to 80km/h, with the top two advancing to the next round. Joni Saarinen (FIN), who won this race last year, was fourth.
For Lahti, a normally fearless Finn, it was also his second straight Junior World Championship – a competition created last year to give younger racers the chance to gain valuable experience in the world's fastest sport on skates. He won all three of his four-man heats on Friday with ease, advancing from the quarter-finals to the semi-finals and then the final without making any mistakes on one of the most challenging tracks ever created.
"This was one of the craziest and scariest tracks that I've ever been on," said Lahti of the track filled with jumps, bumps and a frighteningly steep BF Goodrich Harbor Drop. "I trained a lot in the off-season and worked with a mental trainer. I'm a lot calmer now before races and have a lot of confidence in myself."
Velasquez had hoped to stop Lahti's impressive winning streak and tried hard to pressure him into making a mistake in the four-man final. Racing in only his first season, 17-year-old Velasquez said he was confident he could beat Lahti at some point after also finishing second to the Finn at the first race of the season in Saint Paul.
"I think I can beat him," said Velasquez, who grew up in California training on inline skates and now lives in Pennsylvania. "Of course I wanted to get first but I'm happy. I think I did pretty well and made a good impression. I skate a lot but Saint Paul was the first time I ever touched an ice ramp."
In the freestyle competition, Frenchman Florian Petitcollin, 29, dazzled the crowd with an impressive performance on a balmy evening that included a spectacular back flip to take first place in only his second event. He took second place last year in his first competition on ice skates.
"It feels good to win this competition," said Petitcollin, the world freejump champion in inline skates. "It's amazing."
Results Marseille: 1. Mirko Lahti (FIN), 2. Richie "Jo Jo" Velasquez (USA), 3. Dmitriy Murlychkin (RUS), 4. Joni Saarinen (FIN), 5. Lukasz Korzestanski (POL), 6. Maximilian Hohl (AUT), 7. Theo Richalet-Chaudeur (FRA), 8. Jesse Sauren (FIN), 9. Max Nymark (FIN), 10. Luca Engler (GER)
Watch Live from Marseille
Red Bull Crashed Ice Marseille will broadcast LIVE on redbullcrashedice.com and Red Bull TV on February 17 at 8.45 PM CET (7.45 PM 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.