Velasquez takes first Junior Crashed Ice win in Yokohama season-opener
Written by Steven Kirschbaum 7 December 2018
American Ice Cross Downhill rider Richie 'Jo Jo' Velasquez dominated the Junior World Championship in Yokohama, Japan on Friday evening. The 18-year-old was followed home by a photo-finish battle between Frenchman Theo Richalet-Chadeur and Finn Joni Saarinen, who fell on the ground and slid through the finish line, before ultimately getting disqualified for grabbing.
“I’m super-excited to go home and celebrate with my family,” said the beaming Junior winner. Velasquez has trained every day in Woodward, a special summer camp run by his mother in Pennsylvania, where he regularly trains with professional athletes and can use state-of-the-art ramps to practice his freestyle moves on inline skates and develop a race strategy. “After competing against Mirko Lahti last season, I got really motivated to go home and train my butt off and to come back and kick some more butt.”
Lahti, who won a total of seven Junior World Championship races in the previous seasons, has outgrown his Junior status and can only participate in the men’s category now. “I just realised how much I excelled,” said Velasquez after winning the first Junior Championship race of the season, “so I am ready to take that to the next race and improve on my skills”.
FavouriteSaarinen, who'd raced well before falling right before the finish line, slid on the ground and was narrowly beaten by the outstretched foot of Richalet-Chadeur in a photo-finish victory, that was so close that it had to be decided by the referee.
“Those were the longest two minutes of my life,” said Richalet-Chadeur, recalling those nervous moments, “I'm still shaking. It’s so amazing. That was so crazy – Saarinen is such a good rider.”
Saarinen was disqualified when the referee adjudged that he had pushed and grabbed another rider, gifting Frenchman Leo Kelekis third place by default.
In Ice Cross Downhill, athletes race down the obstacle-filled artificial 350-meter ice track four-at-a-time at speeds of up to 80kph. The first two advance to the next round as the field is whittled down to a final four in the extreme test of stamina, conditioning and exposure to the elements.
Also on Friday, the Last Chance Qualifiers provided a chance for those men and women who hadn’t already progressed via the time trials to earn their spot in Saturday’s final rounds, while Austria’s Florian Graf flipped and tricked his way to Freestyle victory.
1. Richie Velasquez (USA) 2. Theo Richalet-Chadeur (FRA), 3. Leo Kelekis (FRA), 4. Joni Saarinen (FIN), 5. Vladislav Ivanov (RUS), 6. Eric Arrigo (USA), 7. Filipe Cavalheiro (SUI), 8. Eetu Lylykangas (FIN), 9. Valentin Dufour (SUI) , 10. Justin Hubbel (USA).
The Yokohama finals will be broadcast live on Red Bull TV, starting at 7pm local time (10 am GMT) in Yokohama on December 8.