Saturday 20 January 2018

Belfast leg of the adrenalin-rushing action at the Red Bull Crashed Ice

This weekend will see Stormont host some of the toughest skaters in the world as they battle it out for the Belfast leg of Red Bull Crashed Ice.

Hurtling down the specially built teach four at a time the 140 skaters, including 40 from Ireland, will fight it out over jumps, turns and each other to the finish line in front of 40,000 spectators.

The 440m ice track has been the talk of Belfast politics for the last few days, with Gerry Adams joking about a slippery slope at the Belfast Parliament.

You can watch Saturday's action live here:

As the first city to host the event which is not a typical winter sports destination, the Belfast structure took 34 days to build and included 22.5km of cooling pipes to generate 337,000 cubic litres of ice.

The sport, downhill ice skating, sees racers wearing ice-hockey uniforms hit speeds of 65mph as they cannon down the obstacle course which has a 40m drop from starting line to finish. Along the way they have to navigate jumps, turns and drops.

Christian Papillon, Red Bull Crashed Ice Sports Director and designer of the Belfast track, said that he expects the Belfast leg to be one of the fastest of the tour.

Though relatively unknown in Ireland, it is watched by 120m people in 15 countries worldwide and  is one of Red Bull’s premier extreme events.

Belfast Giants ice hockey legend Graeme Walton knows the thrill first hand having competed in the event in 2002.

“It’s just not as if you skate down this track of plain ice with no jumps and no rough bits or corners,” Walton says.

“Everything that goes against skating is in Red Bull Crashed Ice: they've got the jumps, the twists and the turns. They've got the hills, they've got everything there that doesn't go with ice skating. Ice skating is usually on a flat surface inside on a rink, but when you’ve got everything I said there outside it’s something else. It really is an exciting sport.”

Walton, who credits Crashed Ice with opening the door for him to be considered as one of the first wave of homegrown players to play for the giants, says “It’s not just that it’s going to be in Belfast it’s going to take over an iconic building, it’s our parliament building where everything goes on. For Belfast to get a prestige event like this is something that everyone should be proud of and look forward to. There haven't been many events like this in Belfast so people should come out and support it. I guarantee they wont be disappointed, I’m getting excited myself just talking about it.”

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