Former Ghostrider and Fernie local Jeff Zmurchyk returned from Edmonton disappointed but still determined following his second round elimination at the Ice-Cross Downhill World Championship.
The competition is more commonly referred to as Red Bull’s Crashed Ice competition and sees some of the world’s best skaters barrel down steep downhill ice tracks and traverse an icy playing field filled with bumps, obstacles and jumps.
“It seemed like an extreme sport and it was lots of fun,” said Zmurchyk of his first forays into the sport. Competing in Edmonton this year marked Zmurchyk’s second season of Crashed Ice following a stint last year when the competition was hosted in Quebec City.
“Once I got to Quebec City it was a real eye opener,” he said. “Being a good skater doesn’t really transfer over to the downhill ice track. So you have to have the ability to take jumps, land on your feet and maintain your speed throughout the track. There were definitely a few falls the first time I went.”
But much like the Crashed Ice playing field, Zmurchyk’s journey to this year’s World Championships was fraught with hurdles.
He struck out twice during his original tryouts in Calgary, getting disqualified due to clipping an obstacle.
“What happens in these tryouts is there are obstacles you have to jump over or slide under and if you touch an obstacle at all you get disqualified,” explained Zmurchyk.
Undeterred, the former hockey player and assistant coach from the last season made the solo trek up to the next open tryout city in Saskatoon.
“I knew I only needed one smooth run to get through so I took a different approach to it, reduced the sizing in my hockey gear and I made it through no problem,” said Zmurchyk.
Moving on swiftly through the qualifying round, Zmurchyk was ultimately knocked out in the elimination round which blended the top 32 national and international competitors.
Faced off against a fellow Canadian and two Swiss skaters Zmurchyk finished fourth in the heat and was eliminated.
Despite his early knock out from the competition, Zmurchyk still maintains his ultimate goal of making it onto the Crashed Ice world circuit, which has toured through cities like Helsinki and Belfast.
“I think I definitely improved from Quebec City and I think it showed when I was going over jumps at high speeds and around corners. I just want to get better year-by-year and so next year I hope to make it to the main event,” said Zmurchyk.
Though he said that training is made difficult given the literal steep playing field of the game, it’s that uniqueness that drew him to the sport in the first place.
“There’s no other experiences out there like it,” said Zmurchyk of the sport. “It’s not only about being able to hang out with other people in Canada who made it but people from all around the world. It’s pretty unbelievable.”
For Zmurchyk, not only would it be an honour to represent Canada but also Fernie.
“It would definitely mean a lot coming from a small town,” he said. “I didn’t really hear much about Crashed Ice besides doing it on a whim when I was looking for something cool to do so having the ability to represent a small town like Fernie would be amazing.”
Here’s hoping Zmurchyk crashes through the competition next year.