Former Olympian Alain Baxter swaps downhill skis for skates

Former Olympian Alain Baxter swaps downhill skis for skates

Main pic: Alain Baxter, Red Bull Crashed Ice Competitor. November 2015, Quebec City. Photo credit: Daniel Grund/Red Bull Content Pool. 

Former Olympic skier Alain Baxter is gearing up for the Red Bull Crashed Ice season opener in Quebec City this weekend. In this interview with the Newsroom, the Scot opens up about his transition from alpine skiing to ice cross downhill racing – and talks us through his (unusual) training methods.

What’s your plan for this coming season?
I did two Crashed Ice races last season – Belfast and Edmonton. Now I’m entered for Quebec City this weekend. I’m excited actually, because it was an unbelievable experience last time.

Why that sport in particular?
Well… When I was racing and skiing the World Cup, I was living in Austria, near Salzburg. And because of the slope conditions there, we were skiing on ice. I also played ice hockey for a long time… even while I was skiing, actually. The skating and going over the jumps parts were very familiar to me, although I never tried it! I wish I had tried 10 years ago but it wasn’t possible because of skiing.

How did the transition actually happen?
Someone in the UK asked my ex manager if they knew of anyone who would be a possibility to race in the Crashed Ice. My name came up, and also my brother who was doing the same than me – ice hockey and skiing. It was more of a coaching role they were looking at, you know, because I was 41. They told me, come to Sheffield, so I went down and won all my heats, taking third in the qualifications. So they said, you’re in the team, come to Belfast, and see how you go! I ended up the fastest rookie.

What’s more exciting – a Crashed Ice track or an alpine skiing slope?
It’s very different. Obviously in slalom you have the gates to deal with. In Crashed Ice, I’m more familiar with the qualifications – the time trial, one person going against the clock. I’ve actually done the full four-person run thing one time so I still need to learn about this. But you know, I was retired from skiing for five years when I did Belfast and Edmonton and the adrenaline was incredible. It was like racing again. I felt alive again, you know.

What makes a good Crashed Ice athlete?
I think what I have, the ice hockey and the alpine skiing, help. But there is also a freestyle element. So whether it’s freestyle skiing, snowboarding, or inline. When you have freestyle jumps to deal with, this helps.

With slalom skiing, yes you have the speed, the power and agility, and ice hockey gives you the speed too, but you need to be comfortable in the air also. I need some more practice with it. The turns are good, the speed is good, but some of the jumps may be an issue for me.

Your objectives in Quebec City?
To make the top 32 (first round of selection). If I can make it to the top 32 then anything can happen, you know. I qualified once last year, I am on the team now, but I have to qualify on the track to make it the top 64 and I have to win my first four to four to make it to the top 32.

Is your training routine the same than it used to be?
I’d like to – but now I have three children and a dog! So it’s been difficult. But I’ve had lots of fun in the summer taking my kids to the skate park and being on rollerblades. I’ve trained spinning at the skate park with them. I have a gym in my house so I’m still biking, weight lifting and ice-skating, trying to keep myself in shape. And skiing!

Red Bull Crashed Ice 2015-16

Nov 27-28, 2015: Quebec City, Canada
Jan 08-09, 2016: Munich, Germany
Jan 29-30, 2016: Jyväskylä / Laajis, Finland
Feb 26-27, 2016: Saint Paul, United States

Live stream on redbullcrashedice.com and Red Bull TV

Alain Baxter’s bio
The most successful male alpine skier from Great Britain.

DOB: Dec 26, 1973
From: Edinburgh, Scotland
Sport: Alpine skiing (slalom), ice cross downhill racing (Crashed Ice)
Results: Four top-ten finishes in Alpine Ski World Cup races
Competed in three Winter Olympics and seven world championships, taking third in the slalom at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002 before being stripped of the bronze after a failed drug test. He unsuccessfully appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against the decision after the cause of the failed test was revealed to be a nasal decongestant purchased in the US which featured a banned substance its equivalent in the UK did not contain. He would have been Great Britain’s first Olympic alpine skiing medalist.

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