Putting fear in a deep freeze

TIM BAINES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:39 AM ET

QUEBEC CITY -- It's been called "bobsled on steroids."

Reaching speeds of more than 50 km/h on a 535-metre rollercoaster ride, competitors in this weekend's Red Bull Crashed Ice have much more in mind than the $5,000 first prize.

It's all about pushing it to the limit, full throttle. It's about adrenaline. And it's about conquering the fear that might go with the territory when you're rocketing down a course that's full of hairpin turns, big-air jumps and huge vertical drops -- with Old Quebec's stunning landscape serving as the backdrop.

Ottawa's Corey Thibaudeau is "stoked."

"I'm pretty much up for anything," says Thibaudeau, 22. "But this really pushes it."

A rookie forward for the Ottawa Gee-Gees, Thibaudeau is missing tomorrow's game vs. UOIT to be in Quebec City.

"I didn't really know how to approach the coach (Dave Leger) and tell him about this," says Thibaudeau, who'll get plenty of support from family and friends, including Sanjaya Mendis who'll celebrate his birthday here this weekend. "I'm a rookie. I didn't want to step on any toes. But he gave me permission."

Thibaudeau qualified for tomorrow's championship round. He was 19th last night. Sixty-four qualify.

This isn't a faceless list of competitors. There are stories, compelling ones.

Jim Devolin is 46. That makes him the oldest competitor.

Call him middle-age crazy if you want, but he's not intimidated.

He was so anxious to compete here, the Calgary firefighter drove to Edmonton two days before the Calgary trials to "double his chances."

So why would he lace up the blades and put on the rest of his hockey equipment to plunge down the hill with its wicked setup?

"It's the challenge, to see if I can do it," says Devolin, who brought his wife Gina. "From start to finish, you're wired, with nerves and a bit of fear thrown in. It's really quite amazing."

Chris Odynski, who lives in Edmonton but has moved around the country, including a stop in Kanata, got his introduction to Crashed Ice via way of clips on the Internet.

"It looked pretty intense, extreme," he says. "I'm a decent skater and I do a bit of snowboarding so I wanted to try it.

"You really can't describe the experience, man. You go from incline to flat, you're coming off kickers, over gaps. It's just weird. It's really nuts."

'ADRENALINE'

Gary Hudson of London says he's an "adrenaline junkie." The former Jr. B hockey player with the St. Mary's Lincolns was thrilled to give this a try, even if it meant dealing with a phobia.

"I'm afraid of heights so that first 28-foot drop kind of gets to me," says Hudson, who works as a massage therapist. "I just don't look down. It's really over before you know it."

Sweden's Jasper Felder has won this event six times. And he's here looking to add to that resume.

"(This race) is a real thrill," he says. "And what an adrenaline rush, you just go as fast as you can."

Markham's Doug Knight, a 26-year-old banker, says Crashed Ice is one of a kind.

"Nothing compares to it," he says. "It's skiing, motocross, bobsled and skating all in one.

"Nothing can compare to the adrenaline rush you get from going down the hill. You're just flying and you hear the roaring crowd. It's insane. The first time you go over one of those hills, you look at the guy beside you and go, 'Whoa, what are we doing?'

"Once the notice came out that it was here again, I haven't been able to eat since, I have knots in my stomach waiting to go down this hill.

So does he fear anything?

"Yeah, I won't jump out of a plane," he says. "I can control my skates. I don't know about the parachute."

Unionville's Coleton Hayward, 20, is here for the third time.

"I've never really feared danger," he says. "I've always enjoyed speed. With a good hockey background, this is right up my alley."

The champion will be decided tonight, then Quebec City will rock with a Three Days Grace concert.

But you can bet the rocking will begin much earlier, when more than 75,000 spectators watch this "bobsled on steroids."


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