After coming tantalizingly close to winning the Ice Cross Downhill World Championship last season, American Amanda Trunzo spent the entire off-season working harder than ever to get ready for the 2017/18 season – and is one of the top favorites to win the season opener in Saint Paul on Saturday.
Trunzo led last year's championship through most of the season thanks to three podiums in the first three Red Bull Crashed Ice races, including her first ever victory in Finland. But she struggled with a knee injury in the final race of the season, finishing 18th in Ottawa, and ended up falling to second overall.
Undaunted by the late-season slide in the world's fastest sport on skates, the 28-year-old high school teacher and hockey coach banished any thoughts of despair and poured all her energy into getting fitter and faster than ever before. She trained some 10 to 15 hours a week throughout the off-season, sometimes working out with some of the world's best men such as Cameron Naasz and Maxwell Dunne.
"I was super motivated to train hard after last season and being so close to winning the world championship," said Trunzo, a native of Minnesota who finished second overall, just 150 points behind Canada's Jacqueline Legere. "It was a sour taste in my mouth all off-season and something that motivated me all year long."
Trunzo, who joined the Ice Cross Downhill World Championship in 2015/16, was nevertheless pleased to jump up from eighth overall in her rookie season to second last season. Her memories of the late-season stumble – after getting first and second in the first two races -- are not only painful but also only sketchy.
"To be honest, I'm still not exactly sure what went wrong," Trunzo said, who was so far ahead in the standings at the halfway point of the season that she could have clinched the championship with a win in the third race at home in Saint Paul. "I raced in Saint Paul on a torn MCL (medial collateral ligament) as I got hurt on the first time out on the track. So to be honest I wasn't all that bummed out placing fourth as I was told not to even race. Then Ottawa came and I still wasn't 100 percent physically. But still that's no excuse. To say the pressure got to me might have been the case. But still finishing second overall in my second season of racing was nothing to hang my head about."
This year, she is not only fit as a fiddle but ripping and raring to go.
"Yes, that's absolutely right," she said. "I'm really excited to get this season started and for it to start off in my home state, in front of family and friends, is a great way to kick it off. I'd like to think I'm fitter and faster than ever."
Trunzo's rise to the top of the sport parallels a sharp increase in the competitiveness of the women's racing since a world championship for the women was introduced in 2015/16.
"I think what happened is that women just started to train hard in the off season," she said. "Before it wasn't a full tour for women and just one stop so you weren't getting women to be competitive with it. Now we have a full tour with a world champion – which is a huge motivation."
Trunzo doesn't mind if others consider her to be a top favorite for the title this season but her goals are more modest: "If you can be consistent in this sport, you have a good chance of being successful. I think if I can be consistent, I'll have a good chance of standing at the top of the podium at the end of the year. But it's a long season and there are a lot of good women out there."
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.