While everyone in the Tampa Bay area (and beyond) braced for the polar vortex, a more enjoyable and exciting extreme cold event took place in Oldsmar on Saturday, as the Tampa Bay Skating Academy played host to the Red Bull Crashed Ice Qualifier.
For the second year in a row, Tampa served as one of eight cities holding qualifying events. The competition attracted athletes from places like Texas, Massachusetts and New York to compete in a series of unconventional drills and obstacles. Jack Schram and Harrison Rigsby beat out 16 competitors to claim the two open spots from the South Region and advance to the Red Bull Crashed Ice U.S. World Championships taking place Feb. 20-22 in Minnesota — the only U.S. stop on the World Championship Tour.
“I knew the competition was going to be tough, going up against college athletes like Harrison,” said Schram, who flew into town on Thursday from Austin, TX to prepare for the event.
Schram, 26, also did extensive training to prepare for the event in Lake Placid with former Olympic Speed Skater, Pat Kelly.
A member of the UCF hockey team, Rigsby, 22, entered Saturday's event with plenty of experience after having won last year’s qualifier.
“My experience at the Red Bull Crashed Ice U.S. Championships in St. Paul last year was one of the best of my life," said Rigsby, who is from Altamonte Springs, Fla. “I was excited and needed to make sure I advanced again."
Entering its fifth season of world championship competition, Red Bull Crashed Ice is a combination of ice hockey, downhill skating and boardercross featuring athletes from a variety of disciplines including ice hockey, mountain biking, alpine skiing and speed skating. In addition to US event in Saint Paul, Helsinki and Moscow will serve as other qualifying national epicenters before the big finale on March 22 in Quebec City.
The race is essentially a cross between speed skating and downhill mountain biking where athletes race at speeds approaching 40 mph down obstacle-laden tracks featuring 200-foot vertical drops and extending in length of 2,000 feet. In each race, four riders from a field of 64 jostle and sprint along a course infused with jumps, bumps and hairpin turns with the top two advancing to the next round.