Daniel Guolla (top). Photo: Joerg Mitter / Red Bull content pool
By Anil Jhalli
When Daniel Guolla was just 16 years old, he stumbled on a Crashed Ice event on television and said to himself, “That’s the coolest thing I have ever seen and I’m going to that some day.”
Fast-forward 10 years later and Guolla is the lone Ottawa athlete set to compete in the 2017 Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship on Mar. 4 in his hometown.
Crashed Ice skaters will be competing on an ice track just over 300 metres long, beginning slightly above Chateau Laurier’s outdoor terrace, through the Rideau Canal locks, and finishing at the Ottawa River.
Part of Ottawa’s 2017 celebrations of Canada’s 150th birthday, the event is expected to draw thousands of spectators, including many of Guolla’s friends and family on hand to cheer him on.
“I’m a pretty laid back guy, and I don’t let a lot of things get to me,” signals Guolla, who works a retail position at Nordstrom in the Rideau Centre when he’s not speeding down tracks made of ice. “But the lead-up to this is a lot different than anything else. Having it in Ottawa is so special, and I’m just ready to go.”
The former Stittsville Jr. ‘B’ hockey player first competed in the sport – known as downhill ice cross under the banner of its international sports federation – in 2009, as soon as he was old enough to be eligible for competition. But the bumps and pulled hamstring from that race in Quebec City made Guolla rethink his entire approach.
“I honestly didn’t know how difficult it really is,” he recalls. “I was only 18 and I don’t think I was entirely ready.”
Using the memory of Quebec City as motivation, Guolla worked on improvements, and by age 22, he was regularly competing in Crashed Ice events around the world.
The experienced downhill skier attended this season’s first two Crashed Ice events in France and Finland, and was ranked 21st in the world after those races.
“I’ve been to a lot of places, but I’m really looking forward to competing in Ottawa,” underlines Guolla, who finished 2nd in the team competition at the 2015 worlds. “I’ve had so many great memories, but I know Ottawa will top them all.”