Crashing her way around the world

How Minnesota-native Sydney O’Keefe got hooked on the Red Bull Crashed Ice circuit

Sydney O'KeefePAGE

Prior Lake native Sydney O’Keefe competes in Red Bull Crashed Ice // Photo courtesy of Red Bull Crashed Ice

Crashed Ice, or, as nobody you know calls it, ice cross downhill, is the Red Bull–sponsored extreme sport that is returning to St. Paul later this month. A combination of speed skating, downhill skiing, and a complete and utter disregard for self care, Crashed Ice takes over Cathedral Hill for the fourth winter in a row on February 26–27.

Among the participants is Sydney O’Keefe, a Prior Lake native and Shattuck–St. Mary’s hockey coach who has raced in the last three seasons of Crashed Ice competitions and is currently fifth in the women’s rankings. We asked her how she got into Crashed Ice, what it’s like to travel the world (and St. Paul) doing this, and how much it hurts when you fall.

Sydney O'Keefe // Photo courtesy of Red Bull Crashed Ice

Sydney O’Keefe // Photo courtesy of Red Bull Crashed Ice

The Growler: How did you get onto the circuit?

Sydney O’Keefe: My background is in hockey and I have been skating since I was a little kid. I played for my town’s youth and high school programs and then was fortunate enough to play Division I college hockey out at RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) in New York. An old college teammate messaged me asking me if I’d want to participate in qualifier at the Xcel Energy Center. I thought it would be fun to race around a rink and navigate though a few obstacles. I ended up doing well and qualified for the first female race in St. Paul that year. I happened to win, which advanced me as a wild card to the next stop in Quebec. My beginner’s luck ran out, but it was too late, I was already hooked.

Things have changed this year and qualifying for the races is much different; I’m glad I got involved when I did.

G: What is the life of the traveling Crashed Ice competitor like, especially when you have a day job coaching?

SO: You know, it’s different for each athlete. For some, it’s a full-time gig and they can devote most of their time towards training, or spend weeks in Europe traveling to the events. But for me, having a full-time job can be a bit challenging. I train when I can, though obviously it’s not as much as I wish at times. There’s quite a bit of time spent in the car driving up to the cities (to train or skate) and then back down to Faribault for work. But you make it work.

I am very grateful that I have so much support at my job and can make it to the stops that I can. In the past, the races in St. Paul and Quebec fell perfectly during school breaks, so I didn’t have to miss any games. This year, for the first time, women were invited to the world championship tour (all four stops: Quebec, Munich, Jyvaskyla-Laajiis, and St. Paul), so that makes it a little tougher when trying to coordinate schedules.

image (1)_photo courtesy Sydney O'Keefe via Red Bull Crashed Ice copy

Sydney O’Keefe (left) charges out of the starting block at a Red Bull Crashed Ice race // Photo courtesy of Red Bull Crashed Ice

G: What is the worst injury you’ve ever sustained doing this? 

SO: This year in Quebec I ruptured a bursa sac in my knee. Now, compared to some of the injuries, that’s nothing. On the flight home it became so swollen I really couldn’t bend my knee or walk. Thankfully, I happened to be traveling with a couple other American riders—I swear I’d still be stuck in the Toronto airport if they didn’t sprint through the terminals with me in a wheelchair to make sure we made our connecting flight.

G: What is your favorite part of the competition, and your most memorable moment?

SO: I love the rush you get when you’re going down the track, challenging myself and learning new things. The entire experience is unbelievable. The people you meet and the places you go are truly amazing.

My most memorable moment so far was winning the race in St. Paul my first year and having my friends and family there to cheer me on. The female races have come a long way since then and I’m excited to compete again in my home state later on in February!

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