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Recreation: Crashed Ice Tour is like stormtroopers on ice skates
Ice Cross » Salt Lake native still competes in speedskating, but with jumps, obstacles.
First Published Feb 19 2014 09:26 am • Last Updated Feb 19 2014 10:00 pm

If Tigh Isaac had stayed on his previous life course, he might be in Sochi, Russia, right now with a medal hanging around his neck.

But a change in plans will have him in Saint Paul, Minn., instead. The Salt Lake City native will, however, still be skating as fast as he can in a much less formal, and less flat, environment and in front of a much larger live crowd.

At a glance

About Red Bull Crashed Ice Tour

If you have had enough Olympic ice dancing and figure skating to last a lifetime, you might want to check out the Ice Cross Downhill Championships. The sport involves four skaters blazing down narrow ice alleys at 40 mph with jumps, sharp turns and obstacles thrown in just for fun. The lone event in the United States, Thursday through Saturday in St. Paul, Minn., will be aired Monday on Fox Sports 1.

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Isaac, who once trained as a speedskater at the Olympic Oval in Kearns, will be representing his country at the three-day Red Bull Crashed Ice event starting Thursday.

Picture a Utah slot canyon with a sheet of ice and four skaters decked out like stormtroopers from "Star Wars," banging and crashing their way at 40 mph over bumps, around corners, and into walls. All this in front of a 100,000 people as the Ice Cross Downhill World Championship tour hosts its second international event.

"It is everything I have ever done in my life combined into one," said Isaac, who played hockey at East High School and shreds Utah’s snow-shrouded Wasatch Mountains at every opportunity. "Being comfortable on hockey skates definitely helps, but it takes a different kind of athlete to do this."

Isaac said his background as a motocross rider helps with a strategy for passing and positioning during the chaos.

The sport is not as rough and tumble as it might appear.

"It’s not like you are there to take everybody else out," Isaac said. "Incidental contact happens, but you can get disqualified for flagrantly taking someone out. It’s about making the right moves to get to the finish line first."

Isaac believes he and younger brother Austin are the only Ice Cross athletes in the West. That gives the Isaacs few options for practicing on the tight confines of the ice alleys.

Thankfully, the Isaac boys have understanding parents with a big backyard.

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"Short of Finland, which has a couple of permanent tracks, there really is nowhere to consistently practice," Isaac said. "I was brainstorming on how I could practice. I was doing stuff on Rollerblades at skate parks. Last January when we were in the negative [temperatures] for three weeks I decided to build a track."

Isaac has been around the world competing in the Red Bull Crashed Ice tour with stops in Finland, the Netherlands, Russia and Canada.

His three years in the sport have not always been smooth skating.

Isaac was in the Netherlands for an event, but his gear didn’t arrive when he did, and he was forced to ask his peers for help.

"I walked around the tent asking people if I could borrow stuff for qualifying," Isaac said. "The skates didn’t fit right and I crashed into a corner."

Isaac was blind in his left eye for four hours, cracked his pelvis and cracked four ribs. He stayed in Europe hoping to heal in time for the next race, but the threat of a collapsed lung forced him from the tour.

But Isaac, who is part of the national Red Bull Crashed Ice team, had accumulated enough points that he held his spot on the roster.

Isaac said he is looking forward to the Minnesota event, held in front of the Cathedral of Saint Paul, with an expected crowd of 100,000, because he has turned in his best performances on U.S. ice.

"It is a little unexplainable. They keep you in a tent until the race. You can hear all the people and then you walk out onto the ramp and there is this endless wave of people," he said. "It is absolutely insane."


Twitter: @BrettPrettyman

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