White, Autti come through in the clutch
Forget Shaun White and Antti Autti. The most nervous folks in the Winter X Games hemisphere Sunday night had to be ESPN program executives.
Because until the two marquee names qualified for Monday night’s primetime snowboard superpipe final on the last two runs of the evening, it appeared viewers across the world might have to settle for a pared-down pipe field for the second consecutive night.Top females Gretchen Bleiler and Hannah Teter pulled out of Saturday night’s women’s final, but their male equivalents rebounded from first-run falls and came through when it counted.White booked his ticket on the penultimate run, using an 86.66-point score to qualify third. His relief showed as he feigned wiping sweat off his shiny plastic helmet.Autti was next, qualifying sixth (83.00) on the final trip down the pipe. Afterward, the defending Winter X champ from Finland said he hadn’t been that nervous since his first career snowboard contest. “I was like, damn if I’m not going to make it,” Autti said. “So I kind of did a little bit safer run because I knew that 76 (points) would get me in.
“I was shaking. I still am.”Eighteen-year-old Mason Aguirre, recently named to the U.S. Olympic team, led the group of 10 qualifiers, posting the two highest scores of the evening. It was his second-run 89.33 that guaranteed him the coveted final starting spot in tonight’s competition.Aguirre played down the significance of starting last.”Qualifying really doesn’t mean anything,” the 6-foot-1 Minnesota native said. “Just getting into the final is really the big deal. That’s why you saw Shaun and a couple of the guys play it safe with their runs.”
Louie Vito, 17, who grew up snowboarding on a hill outside Columbus, Ohio, qualified second (87.00). He didn’t expect the competition to come down to White’s and Autti’s second runs, but the subsequent outcome didn’t surprise him.”If anyone can land it under the pressure, it’s those two guys,” Vito said.U.S. Olympian Danny Kass finished fourth (86.33), followed by Golden rider J.J. Thomas (85.00).Breckenridge’s Chad Otterstrom qualified seventh with a solid first run that earned an 82-point score.Risto Mattila, Mike Goldschmidt and Scotty Lago filled the final three qualifying spots. Breckenridge rider Steve Fisher, who won the X Games pipe title in 2004, finished 13th in a field that was missing invitees Ross Powers, Andy Finch and Travis Rice.
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