I know so little about extreme ice sports that when I heard about the event “Red Bull Crashed Ice,” I half expected it to be about Red Bull cocktails.
Turns out, this year’s opening event of Red Bull Crashed Ice, the ATSX Ice Cross Downhill World Championship, was due to debut in Asia — specifically at Rinko Park in Yokohama, Japan.
In layman’s terms, it is basically a motocross race on skates.
The first evening was going to feature the junior division, the qualifiers, and freestyle, with finals to be held on December 8. I was excited to see what makeover the location was getting for the occasion.
Shock and Awe
I was awestruck. A 350-meter course, which took two weeks to build — with twists, turns, and a terrifying 22-meter drop right at the start of the course — snaked before me as I approached the Rinko Park course. The feat of maintaining such an intricate ice course was especially impressive given the unusually high temperatures during this season, hitting 25C earlier in the week.
“Five Seconds warning!” shouted the announcer. Four skaters at a time braced themselves before hurling down a slope which is 22 meters high. They each twist, jump, and perform 180-degree turns, some even hitting a speed of 80 km/h. Names of obstacles, such as the one called “Samurai corner,” were ominous, to say the least.
Mistakes can mean either you are sent flying, or you lose your momentum and are stuck trying to pull yourself up a slope with cheering crowds egging you on.
The final stretch was perhaps the most dramatic, with a jump on “the Rising-Sun Bridge” and two bumps you could choose to do either separately or in one terrifying leap, sending more than a few skaters hurtling to the finish line while hugging the ice.
Even for a newbie like me, it was enough to make your blood rush with adrenaline.
An Enthusiastic Reception
The crowd also seemed to take to the event, despite it being the first appearance of ATSX Red Bull Crashed Ice in Asia, or Japan for that matter.
Fascinated onlookers cheered loudly, clapping with memorabilia such as cheering balloons provided by the sponsor, Indeed Careers, or shouting happily inside paper megaphones. Others simply clapped the side panels loudly, producing an overall fun atmosphere.
The enthusiasm was helped by the mild rain-less weather, which made an evening in Yokohama Bay particularly pleasant.
Fans naturally cheered Japanese athletes the most as the event took place in Japan. A group of men in their 20s next to me cheered enthusiastically for Toma Yamauchi, who competed in the juniors category, with one in particular shouting, “Shashin o torou! Toma ga daisuki!” (Let’s go take a picture! I Love Toma!)
Unfortunately, most Japanese athletes didn’t make it to the final stages in the main categories, with the exception of Junko Yamamoto, who finished 6th the following day. The winners were Cameron Naasz for the men, and Amanda Trunzo for the women, both from the United States.
Upon further research, I discovered the sport is governed by the All Terrain Skate Cross Federation (ATSX), and this competition in particular is part of the Ice Cross Downhill World Championship, now on its 10th season.
Given the relative novelty of the sport, I learned that despite all athletes sporting hockey gear, some have an inline skating background. Moreover, it’s a competition which doesn’t just test athleticism but also one’s capacity to deal with adrenaline. A case in point is Takeshi Yasutoko, a living legend in inline skating in Japan.
It was therefore surprising that it was so well-received, despite its relatively niche nature, suggesting that there is space to develop in the Japanese market.
An Event for Everyone
Quite apart from the sport, spectators were entertained by English and Japanese commentary, and music which ranged from hip hop to dance, and the occasional track reminiscent of Mario Kart. Interludes were filled with a scene so often featured in American baseball matches: the camera with the heart shaped frame encouraging spectators to hug each other. It’s a mark of the light and excited atmosphere that most people actually complied with the suggestion as they laughed.
Japan, of all places, understands that customers are happy when their stomachs are full. So, as with so many public events, the food was delicious. Popular staples, such as karaage and yakitori, were present, as were sport-like foods, such as the delicious fries of And The Friet.
It was an event for all ages to enjoy.
Overall, I left thinking that the debut of this niche sports event was definitely a success. As shown by the enthusiasm of the guy shouting “Toma ga daisuki!” next to me, Japan might just have sealed its future as venue for more extreme sport events.
Author: Arielle Busetto