A skater who wiped out during practice for this weekend's Red Bull Crashed Ice competition, which has participants whipping down a twisting and undulating strip of ice in St. Paul, is in the hospital with several leg fractures.
Darren Olson, 27, of Lino Lakes, crashed during practice Thursday morning, a little more than halfway down the 1,300-foot course.
Olson, at one time a high-level speedskater who competed in the 2002 Olympic Trials, said he cleared one jump but landed on another about 10 feet later "and got my foot wrong."
He had surgery at Regions Hospital to repair severe breaks to his left leg's fibula, tibia and ankle. He now has a plate in his ankle and a rod in his thigh bone.
Red Bull's Jennifer Belongia-Barak said that there have been injuries among the 100 or so competitors, but she declined to offer specifics. "Like most sports, athletes take risks when they take to the ice," Belongia-Barak said.
Olson said from his hospital bed that he participated in the Crashed Ice competition in 2003, "so I was kind of familiar with skating downhill, at least."
With the Cathedral of St. Paul as a backdrop, the 2012 course goes down a four-story slope, around turns, over ice bumps and even up a 16-foot incline. Olson described it as "kinda crazy, but the practice was going really well, getting comfortable with it."
Olson's speedskating bio includes being national age-group champion as a teenager while with the Midway Speedskating Club, based at the Roseville skating oval.
Recently, he's been getting his thrills racing cars at Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis. Everything is on hold now, as Olson is off his feet for the next six to eight weeks.
As for lacing up the skates again for Crashed Ice, Olson said, "Uh, probably not. I think this is it."