LINCOLN — A Laconia man who wants to be a photographer for Red Bull impressed folks at the energy-drink giant in a different way Saturday at Loon Mountain, winning a wildcard berth in next month’s Downhill Ice Cross World Championship at Fenway Park as a competitor.
In the finals of the Red Bull Crashed Ice Athlete Search at Loon, Thomas Missert and Katie Guay, of Mansfield, Mass., defeated 22 and 23 competitors, respectively, to capture the men’s and women’s wildcards for the Feb. 8 & 9 World Championship.
Beginning nearly two decades ago as individual races, Red Bull Crashed Ice is now an international, three-race series that for 2018-19 ends in Boston at a venue that is much better known for professional baseball than for extreme winter sports.
In downhill ice cross, skaters race four abreast down courses that are designed to simultaneously accelerate and trip them up at speeds of 50 miles per hour or more.
The time-trials course at Loon measured 600 feet, but the championship course at Fenway will be 2,000 feet long, up to seven stories high and stretch from right field to home plate, and Missert, 25, is looking forward to tackling it.
A native of Medford, Mass., Missert grew up in Buffalo, N.Y. When he was a fourth-grader, Missert’s family moved to Laconia where he attended public schools and graduated from Laconia High School in 2011.
He has played hockey for much of his life, including on junior hockey teams.
Although injuries have plagued his hockey career, Missert has stayed close to hockey, including a past four-year stint as a Zamboni operator at the Ham Ice Arena in Conway, and his current gig as team photographer for the New England Wolves, who play in the Merrill Fay Arena in Laconia’s south end.
Missert, who was one of five Granite Staters competing Saturday at Loon and the only one to place in the Top 3, plays in a men’s league at the arena but can also be found, as he was on Sunday, doing some easy skating with loved ones at the Gilford Ice Rink.
Reflecting on what transpired at Loon less than 24 hours earlier, Missert offered that it was “a pretty dramatic finish,” in part because of the initial confusion about who had won the men’s wildcard.
Despite announcements that were made in real time on the course that Michael Romano of Brampton, Ontario, Canada, was the winner, Red Bull said in an email to media sent at 4:45 p.m. Saturday that the times shown on the on-course screens were “unofficial.”
The email was sent almost two hours after the last skater completed his final run; in another email sent at 9:52 p.m., Red Bull reiterated that Missert had a best run time of 15.62 seconds which was .37 of a second faster than Romano.
That Missert is advancing to the Downhill Ice Cross World Championship is both a little improbable and apropos.
A huge fan of Boston sports teams — “I got Gerry Cheevers tatted on me,” said Missert, referring to the former net minder who led the Boston Bruins to two Stanley Cups and is also his grandfather’s favorite all-time player — he is relishing the opportunity to represent that city, as well as New Hampshire and the U.S. against a field made up of the world’s best downhill ice racers.
Asked how he got to where he is now, Missert replied that he was just trying to find a way to make a splash with Red Bull and to convince the company to consider hiring him as a photographer. Following flat-track eliminations in Boston in December, Missert advanced to the Red Bull Crashed Ice Athlete Search finals and got his first experience on a downhill course at Loon.
After accidentally “over sharpening” his skates, Missert had their edges dulled because he realized he didn’t need quite that much edge to maneuver effectively.
Nonetheless, the ride was a hoot, said Missert, who in addition to being a hockey player is an adept snowboarder and skier who once hit an estimated speed of 70 mph on skis at Loon.
“That,” he said, “was exhilarating,” adding that to prepare for the speeds he might experience at Loon, a friend with a motorcycle with studded tires pulled him along the frozen surface of Lily Pond in Gilford.
Like Missert, Guay, 31, in a prepared statement from Red Bull, said the chance to compete at Fenway “is truly special. This is something to add to my resume of hockey.”