Emil Furcht, who's played soccer with FC Korsholm in Finland, returned to his native St. Paul to risk his life last week in the Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship. We decided to ask him why anyone would want to venture into such a competition in which ice skaters go hurtling down a 1,300-foot course of sharp twists and drops.
Unfortunately, casualties mounted quickly as skaters began training Thursday, and Furcht was among those who got injured on the course outside of the Cathedral of St. Paul. The speed demons were vying for four spots on Team USA, which will train to compete against three other countries at the world event in Quebec City in March.
Earlier in the week, I talked to the Chisago Lakes High grad and alum of Roseville's Northwestern College about this emerging extreme sport.
Q Explain this extreme sport.
A I'm fairly new to it. It's kind of a snowboard cross with skates. You go down a set track and hope to get to the finish line first.
Q Looks like you need to be nuts to do this?
A I certainly think there's an advantage to being a little crazy. But hopefully you stay safe.
Q What about the physical risk associated with this sport?
A It's inevitable that some competitors get hurt. You hope it's not you. It's something you have to weigh and ignore as you're skating. It's probably going to be worse if you're thinking about it as you're skating?
Q How many bones have you broken in your professional soccer career?
A I've been lucky not to break too many bones. But I've had a couple of surgeries on my ankle, torn ligaments and tendons. A couple of pretty bad concussions. A broken nose. Fairly fortunate overall.
Q Were you a daredevil as a child?
A Yes and no. I have a few phobias. I'm really afraid of heights. I'm claustrophobic. But I've always loved speed and never been really afraid when I've been speedskating on short track or the first time on a ski hill. Always have been fine just flying down. Speed has always been OK. I'm not too concerned about the speed [but] more the jumps of this course.
Q What makes you think you can succeed in this competition?
A I'm new to the sport so I don't necessarily know how I'll be. I think [with my] speedskating background I'll be used to the fast turns. But going downhill is going to be a unique experience. Who knows? Looking forward to trying.
Q How do you prepare yourself?
A There's nothing you can really do to train quite like going downhill, but if I was still in a ski resort area, like Utah, I'd probably go out and do some skiing and go off some of the jumps there. Right now it's just been getting on ice. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to train as much as I want.
Q What kind of sports background is a foundation for taking part in this?
A I think definitely a speedskating background. I've been racing on skates since I was 6 years old, so that's it, and I've always thought it would be fun to have something downhill like this. Finally now that I'm a bit older, I have more discretion.
Q Since you don't like heights, you'd never bungee jump in the crocodile-infested Zambezi River in Africa?
A I wouldn't bungee jump at all.
Q Greatest competitive adrenaline rush?
A Short-track speedskating. Going around the turns at high speed. Hopefully this is more exciting than that.
Q Would hockey be less enjoyable without checking?
Q Really? You have to hit people? I just don't understand that need for violence and think the object of hockey should be putting that puck in the net without hitting anybody. I'm thinking about Jack Jablonski and Jenna Privette, the two seriously injured teenage hockey players.
A They should do something [to prevent this]. But it shouldn't be not hitting.
Interviews are edited for clarity and space. C.J. is at 612.332.TIPS or firstname.lastname@example.org. More of her attitude can be heard Thursday mornings on Fox 9.