American Cameron Naasz took pole position for Saturday's Ice Cross Downhill World Championship grand finale in Ottawa by posting the fastest qualifying time for the sixth straight time this season. In the women's competition, championship leader Amanda Trunzo of the United States struggled with only the 18th fastest time.
Cameron Naasz, the reigning champion in the world's fastest sport on skates, is attempting to become the first-ever to win back-to-back titles and got his weekend off to a flying start by posting the fastest time (35.11 seconds) in the Shootout on Friday down the 375-meter long track in Ottawa. Qualifying for Saturday's final Red Bull Crashed Ice race of the 2016/17 season, Canada's Dylan Moriarity took second (35.22) and his twin brother Dean was third (35.58) on an ice-cold day with temperatures far below freezing and snowflakes in the air.
None of Naasz's three rivals still in the title fight managed to finish in the top four in Friday's time-trial Shootout on the spectacular artificial ice track filled with obstacles built up on the Ottawa Locks on the Rideau Canal running between Canada's spectacular parliament building and the Fairmont Château Laurier hotel. The frozen track with its 35-meter vertical drop resembles a frozen waterfall as it cascades down the valley. American Maxwell Dunne (second overall) was 11th in the Shootout, and Canada's Scott Croxall (third overall) was fifth. Austria's Marco Dallago (fourth overall) was 81st and may now not qualify for the finals on Saturday.
"I'm really happy with the time trials - six for six this year," said Naasz, who has won two races this season and holds a slim lead over Dunne, Croxall and Dallago. "I'm really proud of that." He said it was important to have his choice of lanes all the way to the final – a small but significant advantage in a highly competitive field. "I feel at home in Canada. I won in Quebec City last season and in Edmonton two years ago. I've got a good track record here in Canada and hope I can keep that going."
Naasz would in essence need to finish ahead of those rivals to win a second straight championship in the sport where athletes race in heats of four at a time and up to speeds of 80 km/h. The fastest two athletes from each four-person heat advance as a field of 64 is narrowed down to a four-person final.
In the women's competition, championship leader Trunzo had two dismal Shootout runs and her best time of the day, 50.46 seconds, was more than eight seconds off the pace set by American Sydney O'Keefe, who posted a time of 42.35 seconds. Canada's Jacqueline Legere, the defending champion lying in second place overall, was second in the time trials, just 0.14 second behind. Canada's Myriam Trepanier, who is third overall and could also take the title with first or second place, was seventh – 2.91 second behind O'Keefe.
Men's Shootout Results: 1. Cameron Naasz (USA) 35.11 seconds, 2. Dylan Moriarity (CAN) 35.22, 3. Dean Moriarity (CAN) 35.58, 4. Luca Dallago (AUT) 35.92, 5. Scott Croxall (CAN) 35.95, 6. Jim De Paoli (SUI) 36.05, 7. Richard Van Wijhe (SWE) 36.10, 8. Antti Tolvanen (FIN) 36.11, 9. Tristan Dugerdil (FRA) 36.13, 10. Markus Juola (FIN) 36.22.
Women's Shootout Results: 1. Sydney O'Keefe (USA) 42.35 seconds, 2. Jacqueline Legere (CAN) 42.49 3. Maxie Plante (CAN) 44.06, 4. Sandrine Rangeon (FRA) 44.49 , 5. Tamara Kajah (CAN) 44.86, 6. Alicia Blomberg (CAN) 45.04, 7. Myriam Trepanier (CAN) 45.26, 8. Elaine Topolnisky (CAN) 45.65, 9. Junko Yamamoto (JPN) 45.67, 10. Jessica Mahler (CAN) 47.83