Courtesy of Red Bull Newsroom
Defending champion unfazed by four-way battle for Red Bull Crashed Ice title.
Cameron Naasz has been here before.
Wind the clock back a year ago to the 2016 season finale, and Naasz took to the start line knowing that if Scott Croxall beat him, any hope of a first title would vanish.
After keeping his cool for a maiden Championship, a year on the permutations are almost exactly the same. Naasz is once more at the top of the Red Bull Crashed Ice standings knowing a win for Croxall would wrestle him the title at the death.
But that is just half of the battle: victory in Ottawa would also give Maxwell Dunne the crown while Marco Dallago is also still in title contention but needs a win, and for Dunne and Naasz to finish third or lower.
If Naasz, bidding to become the first defending champion in the event’s 17-year history, is feeling the pressure than he is not letting on.
“There’s no more pressure on me now than there has been in the past,” he said. “I’ve been in the top three fighting for the title for the last five seasons and I’ve seen it all. I’ve had a target on my back since 2013. I’ll just stick to the same plan I’ve had in years past and try to enjoy myself.”
It is all a far cry from the 17-year-old Naasz, who turned his back on ice hockey after he was dropped from the team for his senior year at school. He immediately quit the sport and, more broadly, all competitive sport until friends persuaded him to try out Crashed Ice at his home town of Saint Paul, Minnesota, in 2012.
In the intervening five years, he has not looked back, and knows the key difference to his two differing sporting forays on ice… “hard work”.
“Knowing that my body is prepared helps me stay calm in stressful situations because I know I’m ready for the challenge,” he said ahead of the most nail-biting of finales from Friday night.
As for the potential history making in a sport where competitors travel at speeds of up to 80km/h on a 375-metre artificial track, he added: “I’d love to win back-to-back titles and be the first ever to do that but anything can happen in this sport.”
It is also all to play for in the women’s championship where three athletes are targeting the end-of-season No.1 spot.
Currently in pole position is American Amanda Trunzo, with 2,300 points, with Canadian duo Jacqueline Legère (1,800), the defending champion, and Myriam Trepanier (1,790) both on her heels in front of what is expected to be a crowd in excess of 100,000 people.
Finishing in the top two would be enough for Trunzo to take the title while her chasers would need to win and hope the current standings leader finishes third or lower.