The world's fastest sport on skates will head east for the 2018/19 season opener on December 7/8, when Red Bull Crashed Ice lands in Japan for the very first time. Yokohama, the country's second largest city by population, will host the first stop as the world's best Ice Cross Downhill athletes begin their fight for the title in the Land of the Rising Sun.
After a thrilling 2017/18 season, where more than 1,000 athletes from 22 countries and five continents took part, the sport is now more competitive than ever, cementing itself as one of the most exciting winter sports for spectators both onsite and on TV. As well as the men's and women's title battles going right to the wire, last season also saw plenty of fresh faces and drama in the new Juniors Championship, and another winter of gripping action is anticipated on all three fronts.
Despite the sport being dominated by Europeans and North Americans in recent years, Japan is expected to have some strong representation when the action gets underway in December. Junko Yamamoto has been one of the top female athletes since the women's competition was introduced four years ago, and she was joined last season by former figure skater Saori Fukuoka, who made her debut in Jyväskylä, Finland. And at the season finale in Edmonton, Inline skating champions and brothers, Eito and Takeshi Yasutoko, had their first taste of the sport. Eito said at the time:
"I am so excited now. The possibility to do both ice skating and inline skating is just really great. I also believe it's going to be huge in Japan. Figure skating is really big there. I think that the speed and the high jumps will attract a lot of people."
When the season kicks off in Yokohama, champions Scott Croxall and Amanda Trunzo will be aiming to defend their titles, while a new Junior champion is guaranteed, with two-time champion Mirko Lahti eligible to compete only in the men's category now due to his age.