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The world's best skiers and snowboarders will battle it out this week in the last major contest of the 2011-2012 season at the European X Games in Tignes, France from March 14-16.
Tom Zikas, head judge of this year's event, commented on the high expectations of the judging panel, stating, "We're really looking for close-to-flawless runs, with a combination of high, technical tricks and getting the grabs executed perfectly. That's what it takes to get on the podium: perfection or very close to it."
Hot off a win at the Burton US Open, Shaun White is set to compete in both the Superpipe and Slopestyle events in Tignes. In January, White scored a perfect score at the X Games in Aspen and is expected to perform a similar feat in France.
While White seemingly has the Superpipe contest in the bag, he may not make finals, let alone the podium, in the Slopestyle event. After citing an ankle injury, White pulled out of Slopestyle in Aspen earlier this year, and he hasn't placed among the top 3 in that discipline since 2009.
If he hopes to make a comeback, he'll have to stomp a highly technical run to keep up with Eric Willett, Mark McMorris, and Chas Guldemond-- the riders currently leading the charge in slope.
Eric Willett, who won Euro X in 2010, and took 3rd in 2011, said, "Shaun definitely has the ability to do well in Tignes, but it will be interesting how he adapts to the course."
Willett also pointed out that while White's training regimen with bag-jumps may have helped him dial in new tricks, it probably didn't help him with course fluidity, which is a key factor in slopestyle.
In the women's event, Jamie Anderson's consistency makes her a clear favorite. She recently won the Burton US Open and placed second at the World Snowboard Championships in Olso, Norway. Her biggest threats are Spencer O'Brien and Enni Rukajaruvii, both of whom have a big bag of tricks and the brains to use them on Tignes's technical course.
After breaking her streak of 16 straight event wins last week, with a second place at the US Open, Kelly Clark will look to regain her winning status in Superpipe. Reigning Olympic gold-medalist, Torah Bright, will also compete, but since it's only her second contest of the season, she still has a lot to prove before reaching the podium.
17-year-old Nick Goepper is the skier to watch in the Men's Slopestyle event. He's the only competitor to beat Tom Wallisch all season in slopestyle. And it's rumored that he'll debut a new trick, which means that if he continues to ski as he did in practice, he might be the only rider capable of taking down "Winning Wallisch" at Euro X.