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Fenway Park To Host Ice Cross Downhill Event

Fenway Park To Host Ice Cross Downhill Event

Red Bull Crashed Ice 2015 Belfast
Dean Moriarity of Canada, Gabriel Andre of Canada, Gabriel Renaud of Canada and Denis Verlinden of Belgium compete during the 2015 Ice Cross Downhill World Championship at Red Bull Crashed Ice 2015 Belfast Event at Stormont on February 21, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Sebastian Marko/ Red Bull via Getty Images
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Fenway Park To Host Ice Cross Downhill Event

A new — or newish — sport is coming to Fenway Park this February. It's called Ice Cross Downhill. The event at Fenway is called Crashed Ice. It features skaters racing downhill. Cameron Naasz is a two-time Ice Cross Downhill world champion. He spoke with WGBH News’ Aaron Schachter about how the sport works. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Aaron Schachter: I'm going to say the sport sounds and looks just a little bit nutty. Can you explain it for me?

Cameron Naasz: I think you'd be right. Ice Cross Downhill is a downhill ice skating event. Four men or women race downhill at the same time. First one to the bottom wins. The course is filled with jumps, bumps, and hairpin turns. It’s a very exciting sport.

Schachter: We need to point out this isn't just a hill, you're not going straight downhill. It's kind of a course. What would you compare it to — BMX or roller derby? What would you say?

Naasz: I think those are pretty good comparisons, but I like to compare it most to snowboard cross. Snowboard cross is an Olympic sport, they race four at a time down an entire course that has a large vertical drop, turns everywhere, and all sorts of jumping features. A very action-packed force that requires a lot of skill.

Schachter: Any idea how fast you guys get going out there?

Naasz: I believe the top speed that's ever been reached is around 56 miles an hour. But I think probably it's around 45 to 50 miles an hour.

Schachter: Oh good. Only 45 or 50 on a pair of skates. Where does this sport come from? I think I'm speaking for most people who have never heard of it before.

Naasz: This sport was invented years and years ago, but the world championships have only been around for I think around a dozen years. It was invented by some crazy guys on a ski hill who decided to race down the hill on skates.

Schachter: It sounds like a pretty intense sport and maybe just a little bit not safe.

Naasz: It's a lot safer than you would imagine. We’re wearing full equipment. Most people wear something similar to hockey apparel, with some adjustments for comfort and agility. I mean the less equipment, the more mobility that you have. But if you aren't as comfortable or confident on the track, you'll wear a little bit thicker apparel. Like I said, it's a lot safer than it looks. You don't really hit the ice that hard, in most cases.

Schachter: Is there any particular strategy aside from, you know, just go down really fast?

Naasz: The gate starts are very important. If you can get out the starting gate before the other guys, it's always better to stay away from the madness. There is usually a battle between second, third, and fourth place, and if you can get out into first place, you can kind of stay away from the craziness.

Schachter: Fenway Park is a baseball stadium, obviously. How do you convert a place like that for this kind of event?

Naasz: It's going to be incredible. I actually saw some renderings of the track earlier today. They plan on starting seven stories up near the Green Monster. Then it's actually going to chicane it's way down and end up near center field, and then we're actually going to go pretty much around the bases all the way into home plate.

Schachter: Sounds fun. What makes a good ice cross downhill athlete?

Naasz: I think that having a wide background in sports makes the best ice cross downhill athlete. You see several athletes that come from one specific background, like they only played hockey or they've only been a downhill skier - they kind of struggle a little bit. But if you have somebody that is a hockey player that also grew up skiing or doing other downhill sports, they turn into a much better ice cross downhill athlete than others.

Schachter: That's Cameron Naasz, two-time ice cross downhill world champion, discussing the sport with us. An ice cross downhill event called Crashed Ice will be hosted at Fenway Park this winter. This is WGBH’s All Things Considered.

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