Summit County Correspondent
ASPEN ” Until Monday night the marquee event in winter action sports had belonged to the Americans. Not anymore.
Antti Autti, Finland’s 19-year-old world champion, used back-to-back 1080s on the first two tricks of his final run to squeak past U.S. Snowboard Team star Andy Finch by a point and win the coveted snowboarding superpipe gold under Buttermilk’s lights at Winter X Games Nine. Autti became the first non-American rider to win X Games superpipe gold.
The victory illustrated snowboarding’s latest truth: Technical prowess beats amplitude. Finch soared higher and longer than any other rider, but his spins couldn’t match Autti’s six rotations in two hits.
Autti had never attempted the 2160-degree combination before he pulled it out in the second-to-last run of the night. Finch followed with his best effort, and many in attendance thought it would be enough to overtake Autti. But the score of 92.00 flashed to Autti’s delight, and he raised his arms in celebration as friends and ESPN cameras swarmed him.
Asked afterward why he attempted a run he’d never tried before with everything on the line, Autti said, “Because I wanted to win. I guess that’s something nobody does, back-to-back 10s. The judges liked it.”
Autti, who frowned after receiving his second-run score of 88.66, wasn’t expecting to be rewarded so well for his final trip down the pipe.
“It wasn’t a really clean run,” he said. “It was a little bit sketchy, so I was like, ‘Whoa, pretty good points.'”
Finch, the top qualifier in Sunday’s prelims, knew his run would be close to Autti’s score, but wasn’t surprised he didn’t win. “I needed to get it a little bit cleaner,” he said, pointing to two little things ” failing to grab his 900 near the bottom, and wiggling in the air on his second-to-last hit.
The last-minute drama between Autti and Finch upstaged a contest began as a duel between friendly rivals and California boys Shaun White and Danny Kass. Kass (90.33) ended up with bronze, while the high-scoring final two runs knocked White (90.00) off the podium for just the third time in his last eight Winter X competitions.
Before Autti put together his 1080s, Kass had been the only snowboarder to land the combo clean in competition. He used it to win the U.S. Open pipe title last year.
Yet Kass said he wasn’t surprised to see it come from Autti on Monday night. In fact, he said, “I was expecting it.”
Another Californian, Luke Wynen, finished fifth (87.66) after squeaking into the final the night before when defending champ Steve Fisher of Breckenridge failed to qualify. Tommy Czeschin (85.33) followed Wynen, giving California five of the top six spots.
Monday’s primetime victory wrapped up an impressive and busy recent stretch for Autti, who lives in Rovaniemi, Finland, a 35,000-population city. He won the world championship at a rain-soaked Whistler the week before winning in Aspen.
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Two Challenge Aspen ski and snowboard athletes from Glenwood Springs, Matthew Boyles and Tanner Jadwin, are slated to compete on the international stage at Aspen’s ESPN X Games on Friday.