Martin Niefnecker, an apprentice plumber, was the winner of the recent Red Bull Crashed Ice Munich event. We spoke to him about his downhill dash.
“Ice Cross Downhill is an amazing sport. There is nothing better,” says Martin Niefnecker.
And he should know. Already a veteran of three Red Bull Crashed Ice events, the 19-year-old finished as 17th-best German in Prague, Czech Republic, then 30th in Lausanne, Switzerland, before breaking through this year and winning on home ice in Munich.
The German became involved in Red Bull Crashed Ice when a friend told him about Ice Cross and asked him if he would consider joining in. As he'd been playing ice hockey from the age of 14, he accepted without batting an eyelid. Since then, he's only had one favourite sport, and that is Ice Cross Downhill. And now his commitment has paid off.
“It was the best feeling!" says Niefnecker of the victory. "I didn’t expected to win, but I knew that I had really a good chances.”
And as some of the other racers struggled to grapple with the difficult track, he felt quite comfortable with its pace.
“The track was made for me! It really fitted well with my skills. My strength is skating, and thankfully there was a part where it was just straight," he explains. "At the beginning, it was really steep and fast, and lots of racers could not handle that.”
But what are the keys to success?
“For a good result, you need good co-ordination and balance, and you have to be safe on your skates,” comments Niefnecker. "I know that if you don’t have full control of your body and your skates, you can hurt yourself easily.”
Now he is looking forward to competing in the next Red Bull Crashed Ice event in Québec.
“I can’t wait until Québec. It was always my wish to go to Canada, the home country of ice hockey, one day," he says, enthusiastically. "The backdrop will be better and the audience will be huge.”
In preparation for Munich, Niefnecker did lots of skiing and even went down the bobsleigh run at Alpenberg with his skates. For Québec, he will ski a lot and, once again, wants to skate down a toboggan run.
“My goal is to come in the first 18 and to fight for the title of the World Championship,” he says.
He'll have the support of family and friends, too, but Niefnecker reveals that his parents had mixed feelings when he first took to the Red Bull Crashed Ice arena.
“My father played ice hockey, too," says the Munich champ. "My mother was kind of afraid at the beginning. But they're both the biggest fans of this sport now!”