Edmonton sport fans got a taste of things to come last Saturday as pro athletes from this weekend’s upcoming 2016 Festival International des Sports Extremes (FISE) World Series descended on Callingwood Skatepark for the FISE Skate Jam mini-event.
The international competition will transform Hawrelak Park into a causeway of ramps, rails, and blaring speakers, forming arguably the most high-profile extreme sporting event in the City of Champions. And Edmonton is the only Canadian stop this year.
International pros will rub shoulders with local skaters, competing in BMX flatland and freestyle, mountain biking and skate park competitions.
To some Edmontonians, their home city might seem like an odd destination for an international extreme sports world series, but after the wild success of Red Bull’s Crashed Ice competition, which drew 70,000 fans in 2015, and the province’s burgeoning mountain biking and skateboard scene, FISE international project manager Alexandra Dardavet said that the selection was no accident.
“Those scenes are strong in Alberta and in Canada in general. That’s two of the sports out of the four we do at FISE,” she says. “We’re expecting, obviously, a lot of athletes, not only pro, but obviously amateur to come and compete.”
Edmonton will be the fourth on a five-stop world tour, with previous stops in France, Croatia, Denver and an October stop in China, but, even more than its international itinerary, the competition has gained repute for its open-entry format, tearing down the stereotype of world events as hand-plucked, invite-only affairs.
“It gives everyone a chance,” says Australian BMX rider Declan Brooks, 20. Brooks finished seventh in Croatia and fifth in Denver earlier this month, making him the competition’s ninth overall BMX rider.
“Everyone has a chance to be in with the big boys and such,” says Brooks. “It lets up-and-coming riders know where they’re at in their career, and if they can qualify, they’re on the track to bigger and better things.”
For him, FISE is the big event of his season.
FISE has also helped to set a new standard for international acceptance of extreme sports as legitimate sport.
This year’s world tour marks the first Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) BMX Freestyle Park World Cup, adding another international-calibre event to bikers’ already busy schedule.
The UCI is recognized by the International Olympic Committee, stirring rumours that BMX Freestyle Park is on its way to becoming an Olympic-sanctioned event.
French skateboarder Maxime Genine, 29, is a five-time FISE competitor, and said that FISE has exploded since it first began in 1997 in the southern France’s Montpellier region.
In France, last year’s competition drew a half-million spectators with over 300,000 at its stop in Chengdu, China. This year, the full world tour is expected to draw well over a million fans.
“As the competition grows, events are going worldwide. That’s cool, it means that FISE is growing,” Genine says.
Despite extreme pressure from international exposure, Genine said the event’s open format and friendly staff have kept things low-stress, making it easy to focus on the competition.
“You try to skate every day to keep motivated. Try not to party too much to be in good shape for skating,” Genine says.
Brooks adds, “This is just the start of a lot of bigger things to come.”
Fri, Sept 16 — Sun, Sept 18