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Finally, White vs. Autti

Devon O'Neil
Summit Daily News
WX10 Autti Coral BH 1-27
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In the year since he last faced Antti Autti at the Winter X Games superpipe competition, Shaun White became untouchable.

He swept the five U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix events, making him the first male rider to do so. Now he is the Olympic gold medal favorite and in greater demand than Oprah.

Yet for everything White has done, everything he has won, there has been a little to be desired. Antti Autti ” the reigning Winter X Games champion from Finland ” was not present at any of the Grand Prix competitions. While White left a trail of American awe in his floppy redhaired wake, Autti stayed in Europe.

The 20-year-old X king has entered four halfpipe contests this season ” three World Cups and the European Open ” leading up to Sunday’s men’s superpipe showdown in Aspen.

“It’s kind of annoying,” said White, 19, who finished fourth at last year’s X Games, a disappointing result he said motivated him to succeed this year. “I’ve been trying to ride against him all year, and we’re never at the same event.”

Finally, the snowboarding world will get a chance to see White vs. Autti in all its glory.

This weekend’s marquee competition ” which begins with a qualifying round Sunday and concludes with the final live on ESPN Monday night ” is being billed as an Olympic preview. In addition to the main attractions, both of the other healthy U.S. Olympic riders (Danny Kass and Mason Aguirre) will be there. Andy Finch is doubtful to compete due to a foot injury suffered in practice Friday.

So who is everyone picking?

If Autti’s own opinion is any indication, there is a clear favorite and underdog.

“He’s the best right now,” Autti said of White, “but I’m sure we’re going to battle against him.”

The “we” in this case is a continent of riders. The way Autti sees it, the rivalry is not just between himself and White. It’s the U.S. vs. Europe.

“I guess all the Americans are riding way better than the Scandinavians right now,” said Autti, who is also the reigning world champion. “So I guess we need to step it up.”

White, who won the X Games pipe crown in 2003, declined to anoint himself the favorite. “I can’t really say,” he said. “I just practice my own run … that’s all I can do. We’ll see. I can’t wait.”

Others were not as reserved with their predictions.

“I think Shaun’s got him by at least eight points,” 2004 X Games pipe champ Steve Fisher said. “Antti can’t really do a backside spin. To me, hands down, Shaun wins. He can spin all four ways, as opposed to just two.”

Ross Powers, the 2002 Olympic gold medalist and a former X Games champ, also picked White, as did two-time X Games gold medalist Todd Richards.

Heading into the Olympics, there is this: No foreign rider had ever won the X Games pipe contest before Autti last year. White is the top U.S. hope to reclaim that crown, at the very least.

Devon O’Neil can be contacted doneil@summitdaily.com

Aspen, Colorado


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