One Binghamton University alumnus is cutting through traditional winter sports for the “Red Bull Crashed Ice” competition.
John Roufaiel, a 2005 alumnus who double-majored in Middle Eastern studies and Arabic, found out two weeks ago that he had qualified for “Red Bull Crashed Ice” in St. Paul, Minn. The competition is a tournament where skaters go four at a time down a large, obstacle-ridden ice ramp until only four finalists out of 164 remain.
“Along the course down it is a combo of downhill skiing, ice hockey and mountain biking,” Roufaiel said. “I’m a little nervous, but I look forward to it and I always enjoy a challenge.”
According to the event’s website, the competition drew over 100,000 viewers during the 2012 competition and hundreds of skaters during the qualifying rounds. Out of 1,000 people from the United States who applied, only 100 were selected to compete.
Roufaiel attempted to enter the competition on three separate occasions, traveling to a different city for each attempt, but he failed to qualify every time.
“There are two ways to qualify and one way is to go to a city that Red Bull designates. I went to three — Buffalo, Chicago and St. Paul — and didn’t make it at either one,” Roufaiel said. “In Buffalo, I missed the cut by 2.2 seconds and Chicago, I was too slow by 1.9 seconds and in Minnesota. I was too slow by 0.12 of a second.”
Despite not making the cut, Roufaiel refused to quit. Red Bull offered six final slots to wildcard skaters who submitted videos showcasing special skills and their reasons for going.
“The video was voted on first by friends and family, but there are three judges from Team USA that have final say,” Roufaiel said. “They only took six out of 80.”
Roufaiel said he was inspired by his best friend, Emre Ergun, an alumnus from the class of 2006 who passed away from leukemia when he was 26. He also drew inspiration from his time on BU’s championship roller hockey team.
“I really admire his commitment to make the team so he could represent his best friend and his country,” said Ryan Hart, the captain and co-president of the roller hockey team and a junior majoring in industrial engineering. “It’s always great to hear a success story like this one about our former players. He’s definitely a great representation of our team and the University.”
While Roufaiel qualified for a spot, he said his success in the competition is not guaranteed.
“I made my own obstacles on flat ice, but it is going to be a lot more difficult going downhill,” Roufaiel said. “When you are going downhill at 40 mph it is going to be a lot different.”
Still, Roufaiel said he was optimistic about his chances.
“You can’t be cocky, but you have to be confident. You can’t put yourself into something that you don’t believe you can get yourself out of or do well,” Roufaiel said. “I want people to see how far I can go. I am trying to get sponsorship to put on my jersey.”
Ryan Yarosh, director of media and public relations at BU, said Roufaiel’s participation demonstrates the drive of BU alumni.
“Our alumni are outstanding, and this is another example of someone who graduated from Binghamton and had gone on to do great things,” Yarosh wrote in an email. “We are proud of John and his accomplishments and wish him the best of luck this weekend as he competes. We hope everyone tunes in to watch, as we certainly will.”