Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Skaters ready for thrills, spills

Crashed Ice qualifier hits city

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WHEN you see Don Kerfoot's recreational activity, you may ask him if he's hit his head.

As a matter of fact he has. And certainly will again, along with any number of other body parts.

Kerfoot, a 25-year-old from Winnipeg, is hoping to qualify for the 2011 Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship on March 19 in Quebec City. To make a fourth trip to the international final event in the extreme skating sport called ice cross downhill, Kerfoot needs a top-five finish in the local qualifier Feb. 11 at River East Arena.

"It's the biggest adrenaline rush I've ever had in my life, going down that track," said Kerfoot, 25, who qualified for the Quebec City championship event in 2007, 2009 and 2010. The Quebec venue has a 600-metre ice track with a 60-metre vertical drop set up in the middle of the historic city.

"I wish I had one in my backyard, I'd be doing it all day. You're so focused on just staying alive, I guess. When you're going down the track, you're just flying. It's reflexes, you're so focused, and by the time you get to the bottom, you're just 'wow, what just happened?' The best way to explain it is it's almost like a blackout."

Skaters in full hockey equipment hurtle down a course with hairpin turns, jumps and obstacles. The competitors, who race four at a time, can reach speeds of 60 km/h as they battle to stay on their feet and finish fastest.

"I've talked to a lot of guys there (in Quebec City) and they've talked about other adrenaline-junkie stuff they've done like skydive, and they say, by far, hands down, this is the best adrenaline rush they've had," Kerfoot said.

The Quebec City event is the fourth and final event of the season, which has included stops in Germany, the Netherlands and Russia. In Canada, Winnipeg is hosting one of 12 qualifying events. The Winnipeg competitors will be timed as they navigate a challenging obstacle course on the arena ice surface.

"It gets pretty intense. There's a free trip to Quebec on the line, it's a big party put on by Red Bull," Kerfoot said.

The Winnipeg qualifiers will join qualifiers from across Canada and the world as part of a field of 120 for the final races on the monster course in Quebec City.

Kerfoot, a forward for the Swan Lake Cougars of the Tiger Hills Hockey League, admits he was never into extreme sports and wouldn't be described as a gifted skater. What he does have is the ability to stay on his feet and work the angles to go fast.

"The first time I went (2007), the downhill slope, I wasn't prepared for that. I had nothing like that before," he said. "The speed you get on your skates going downhill, there's no way to really prepare for that here."

Last year in Quebec City, Kerfoot said the track was "the most intense" he had ever seen and he sustained a shoulder injury in a fall during a preliminary run. He competed anyway, making it out of the individual time trials to the round of 64, but no further. Kerfoot's best year was 2009 when he won one round of races and made it to the round of 32.

With no urban track available here, Kerfoot has been preparing by skating every day, working with a personal trainer, and going downhill skiing.

At the Winnipeg qualifier, he said he expects a tough field. "The competition here has been getting better and better each year."

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship

WINNIPEG QUALIFIER

WHEN: Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

WHERE: River East Arena, 1410 Rothesay Ave.

WHAT: 200 men and 20 women (pre-selected) will compete in individual speed trials with the top five men and top woman qualifying for the main event in Quebec City

CHECK THIS: New in 2011, there will be 50 walk-up spots available. Get there early -- it's first-come, first-served.

LAST YEAR'S WINNIPEG QUALIFIERS: Don Kerfoot, Luke Stokotelny, Ross Johnstone, Ainsley Ferguson

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 8, 2011 B7

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