Avid hockey player Harrison Rigsby didn’t quite know what to expect.
This would be his first time auditioning for a Red Bull Crashed Ice Qualifier, which was held at Tampa Bay Skating Academy (TBSA) earlier this month.
|Harrison Rigsby races through the Red Bull obstacle
course at Tampa Bay Skating Academy recently.
The event presented skaters with an intense obstacle course designed to separate those who would move on to the Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship…from those who would, well, crash.
The event was also a first for TBSA. However, rink manager Glyn Jones couldn’t pass up the chance to host it, calling it “good entertainment” for fans of what might be called extreme skating.
But the moment Rigsby, a resident of Orlando, entered the Oldsmar rink, something inside felt familiar…something just clicked…
“I never tried out for one of these things before but the moment I tied my skates, I thought I had a chance at it,” he said. “I kind of got tears in that moment.”
Those tears of joy were precognitive. Rigsby won the qualifying event that had him and 18 other skaters from all over the world – even one from as far as Germany – maneuvering tight turns and stops, jumping over and under hurdles, all while going as fast as possible.
|Rigsby holds his ticket to the World Championship.|
“Trying not to disqualify myself was the biggest challenge,” the 22-year-old said. “If any part of your jersey touched anything you were disqualified.”
With an overall best time of 24 seconds, Rigsby, a junior at University of Central Florida and a forward on the college hockey team, earned his spot at the Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship, held in Saint Paul, MN, Jan. 24 – 26, 2013.
Red Bull Crashed Ice is a combination of ice hockey, downhill skating and boardercross. The first-ever Ice Cross Downhill race began in 2001 in Stockholm, Sweden. Since then, the competition has grown into one of the most breathtaking of extreme winter sports.
|Aerial of 400-meter-long Red Bull Crashed Ice World
Championship course in Saint Paul, MN., where Rigsby
and some 200 others competed.
Rigsby was one of about 200 competitors to advance to the world championship, out of thousands of skaters who had tried. Once there, Rigsby experienced another skating first: racing down a steep 400-meter-long course of razor-sharp hairpin turns, bumps, jumps, rollers and obstacles.
“It was exhilarating,” he said. “There’s about a 50-foot drop in the beginning where you can’t see where your feet are supposed to go. You’re going about 20 to 30 mph. The only way to enjoy it was to be fearless.”
Rigsby was only a couple tenths of a second from being in the top 36 finishers.
“I’ll be getting a lot further next year, that’s for sure,” he said.
TBSA is also looking forward to the event next year. This was the first-ever Red Bull Crashed Ice Qualifier to be held in Tampa Bay. And TBSA was the first rink in the area to get the job of hosting the event.
|Glyn Jones, TBSA manager.|
The Oldsmar rink met all the requirements Red Bull event organizers needed, such as an NHL-size rink and the best ice time.
“They looked at all the rinks in this area and they finally decided on our place,” Jones said. “They were very professional. They came in and set it all up. (The obstacle course for the qualifying events) are all set up the same way.”
Jones said he would be happy to host another Red Bull event in the future.
|Athletes from all over made the trip to TBSA to compete.
Fellow competitors congratulate Rigsby, in blue jersey.
Tryouts are held in various cities all over the country leading up to each of the five World Championship events.
A strong showing of competitors came to the Oldsmar qualifying event. Athletes from as near as Tampa, Orlando, and Coral Springs made the trip, as well as competitors from Kansas, Chicago and New York.
Even Michael Hoffmann, a very determined German, didn’t let the fact he didn’t win in the Dallas qualifying event deter him. He rented a car and drove to Tampa to compete again.
But the obstacle courses that competitors skate through to qualify are no match for the real thing. At the world championships, competitors begin the race in groups of four, standing shoulder to shoulder, as they push, slide, wrangle and hurtle down steep ice. High speeds and a twisty course make for a lot of action and a good amount of crashes.
Canadian Kyle Croxall won the World Championship race in Saint Paul. Rigsby ran into Croxall during his stay there.
|Rigsby, third in line at top of hill, starts his descent
down the track in downtown Saint Paul.
“He said when he heard I was from Florida he thought I was going to die going down the hill,” Rigsby said, laughing.
Fortunately, Rigsby did not crash and lived to skate again.
And as you might expect, deep down, he has a familiar feeling that he’ll be back to audition again next year, quite possibly at the Tampa Bay Skating Academy.