Vancouver father and son take bonding to the extremes with Crashed Ice competition

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When Vancouver’s Graeme Treweeke competed in Red Bull Crashed Ice in Quebec City last March, his father, Toby, was there by his side to lend support and take in the sights at the extreme downhill ice-cross event. Now, as Treweeke prepares to qualify for a new December race in Niagara Falls and a return to Quebec City early next year, his father will once again be nearby.

Only this time, Toby is changing roles. Oh, he’ll always be Graeme’s father. But when local qualifying takes place on October 20 at the Richmond Olympic Oval, the elder Treweeke will also be a competitor.

Although father-son sports stories are nothing new, they usually involve spending time together on a fishing trip, on a golf course, or during a day at the ballpark. The Treweekes are doing things their own way and taking their bonding to extremes. And if all goes well, they’ll both be hurtling down a 600-metre track of ice on skates and in full hockey gear a few months from now trying to earn the title of Crashed Ice champions.

Described as a fusion of hockey, downhill skiing, and boardercross, the sport is chaos on blades as competitors battle each other and their nerves racing down the chute and over jumps and speed bumps—with disaster always lurking around the next corner.

“It looked like too much fun not to give it a shot,” Toby tells the Straight during a telephone interview. “I figured, what the heck. I’ve been playing hockey for 45 years, so skating is not new to me. And I think skating ability is the key to this.”

The 53-year-old father and 23-year-old son—who work together in the family heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning business—haven’t punched their tickets to the Crashed Ice races yet, but in some ways they are already winners. The Treweekes both had their numbers drawn in a lottery among on-line registrants just to earn one of 220 spots (200 men and 20 women) in this month’s qualifying event.

For Graeme, this will be the third time he’s taken part. Two years ago, he barely missed advancing, and last year he managed to break through, posting the fastest time in the Vancouver qualifier. That earned him the chance to compete in front of 120,000 fans during Quebec City’s annual Winter Carnival. Although he didn’t make it to the elimination heats, he still had an amazing experience and wants another shot at it this year, and he figures the experience he’s gained over the past two years should serve him well this time around.

“It’s so much fun,” Graeme recalls. “It’s intense and it’s pretty hard on your body. It’s really hard to describe. I play hockey three to four times a week, but there’s almost no comparison between hockey and Crashed Ice other than the skating. There’s no stick or puck, and you’re by yourself.”

But this time—at least in qualifying—Graeme will have his father on the ice with him. However, in a role reversal of sorts, it’ll be the younger Treweeke showing his dad the ropes and maybe even offering up some pointers.

“It’ll be good having him there, and I’m excited,” Graeme says. “Me and him, we’ve been playing hockey together for five or six years now. We’re pretty competitive, and we heckle each other a little bit here and there. But it’s all in good fun.”

However, both expect their competitive sides to come out when the qualifying begins. Because it’s a one-day event and not a national championship, the qualifying is held on a hockey rink rather than on the type of specially built track used in the big races. So the organizers do their best to simulate the event and put the hopefuls through an obstacle course of sorts, making them skate, jump, twist, turn, and lie flat on their bellies. And it’s all a race against the clock to post the fastest time.

“I’m feeling confident, but every year is a bit different,” Graeme says. “If it’s anything like last year, I’m pretty confident. As for Dad, I’m not sure. I think the oldest guy in Quebec City was 38, and, on average, most of the guys are in their early to mid-twenties. But he could be a bit of a dark horse.”

To help his chances, Toby has put in an effort training for the qualifier: playing hockey and riding his bike to get in shape. And he knows his son very well may be the one to set the pace on October 20, so he has a pretty good idea of what it will take to earn a trip to Niagara Falls.

“I hope I can beat him,” Toby says with a chuckle when asked if he has what it takes to keep up with his son. “I know my chances in this aren’t great, but why not give it a try?”

Toby has nothing to lose, and that’s the way he’s approaching the challenge. It’s an experience he’ll never forget, and it’s something very few fathers and sons will ever do together. So from that standpoint, it’s an opportunity of a lifetime. And it may be the only time the two of them have the chance to try an extreme sport together.

“I really want to go skydiving next, but Dad’s not a heights person,” Graeme says, laughing. “So I don’t think I’ll be able to rope him into that.”

Even without jumping from a plane, it’s safe to say that Toby and Graeme Treweeke have taken their relationship—and their father-son adventures—to new heights by trying to qualify for Crashed Ice together.

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