Mirko Lahti of Finland comfortably won his second straight Red Bull Crashed Ice Junior World Championship race on Friday to cement his hold on first place in the overall Ice Cross Downhill championship standings. On a frigid Minnesota night with temperatures plunging far below freezing, Canada's Samuel Nadeau took second on the difficult track while France's Martin Barrau took third place in the high-speed competition of the world's best 16 to 21 year olds.
Lahti, who has emerged as the brightest talent of his generation after winning the last Red Bull Crashed Ice Junior World Championship race at home in Jyväskylä-Laajis, jumped into the lead at the start in front of Saint Paul's iconic Cathedral and was unstoppable down the 340-meter long ice track with its 35-meter vertical drop. He can clinch the title in the final race with second place or better.
"I felt really chilled and relaxed tonight," Lahti said with a smile in the finish area to the delight of the sizable crowd lining the course not far from the banks of the frozen Mississippi River. "I'm feeling really confident."
Lahti was also unbeaten through the quarter-final and semi-final heats of the new competition created this year to introduce more young athletes to the world's fastest sport on skates. He put his indelible stamp on the championship with just one race left in the four-race season – at Ottawa, Canada. He leads the championship with 2,000 points while compatriot Joni Saarinen, who won the season opener in Marseille, France, is second on 1,600 points. Barrau is third overall with 1,400 thanks to a second place in Marseille and third in Saint Paul. Saarinen could take the title with a win in Ottawa if Lahti finishes third or lower.
In Ice Cross Downhill, athletes race down the obstacle-filled ice track four-at-a-time at speeds of up to 82 km/h. The first two advance to the next round as the field is whittled down from 128 to a final 4 in the extreme test of stamina, conditioning and exposure to the elements.
In the freestyle competition, Switzerland's Derek Wedge took top honors while Canada's Dean Moriarity, the crowd favorite thanks to his spectacular back flip on the massive corner jump near the finish, took second place.
Junior's Results: 1. Mirko Lahti (FIN), 2. Samuel Nadeau (CAN), 3. Martin Barrau (FRA), 4. Oliver Isaac (CAN), 5. Vaclav Kosnar (CZE), 6. Lorenzo Callegari (CAN), 7. Alex Schreifels (USA), 8. Joni Saarinen (FIN), 9. Petar Sevo (NED), 10. Cody McClean (USA).