Aside from Bryan Fletcher’s career best finish, there were not a whole lot of things to cheers about in Finland last weekend for the U.S. nordic combined team. But simply getting the season underway and the World Cup opener under their belts was a start.
With Head Coach Dave Jarrett back in the U.S. helping out with the Continental Cup races in Soldier Hollow, Utah, Chris Gilbertson is in charge of the U.S. nordic combined squad for this weekend’s World Cups in Lillehammer.
While extreme cold still is holding a firm grip on Scandinavia, the skiers are getting used to it, and with a more comfortable venue, it’s not looking half bad this weekend, Gilbertson told FasterSkier.
“Things are going better. It’s still cold, -17 Celsius, but we are back in a venue that the guys are much more comfortable in,” Gilbertson said, noting that Fletcher and Brett Camerota, especially, have been jumping better this week.
The jumping was definitely the weak spot for the Americans at the Finland events.
“Taylor (Fletcher) is struggling a little bit, and Bill (Demong) and I have gone over tons of videos of old jumps to get him back where we know he can jump,” Gilbertson said.
Gilbertson also noted that the whole squad feels better about the skiing side.
“We were able to follow our normal routine this week, as opposed to last week, which was hampered by delayed, then missed flights. So I think we will see our guys racing much better,” Gilbertson said.
So far, the only challenge the Americans have had in Lillehammer was being moved by the organizers, once they had set up camp and gotten organized.
“We were settled in our jump cabin, but then the organizers decided to move us to another cabin, and move the Austrian special jumpers in. Some things never change,” Gilbertson said.
Bryan Fletcher, 24, who is coming off his best-ever World Cup performance, is excited about the competitions in Lillehammer.
“Lillehammer is cool, because it’s just in the nordic capitol of the world, which means lots of fans cheering you on, as well as some good competitions,” Bryan Fletcher told FasterSkier, adding that his workouts this week have been promising.
“I am feeling good about the races this weekend. We have had some good training heading into the weekend, both on the jump hill and the cross-country side,” he said.
Fletcher said that he knows his performance last weekend was not just luck.
“My hopes for the weekend are same as last weekend. I had a good result last weekend, but my goals have not changed. I know I am capable of doing it again, and I will be doing my best to better it,” Bryan Fletcher said, adding that he knows the competition at the World Cup level is fierce, and that he needs to be realistic.
“My goal is still just to be in the top 30. I am trying to establish top 30s as a consistent result for me throughout the season,” Fletcher said.
As far as preparing for the competitions, Fletcher said he feels like things are on track, aside from from the constant challenge of beating the cold.
“The only thing I have been working on non-stop is finding warm gloves. It’s been so cold outside that I cannot take it,” Fletcher said.
The American starters for the two individual competitions in Lillehammer on Saturday and Sunday include Bryan Fletcher, his brother Taylor, Brett Camerota and Bill Demong.
Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.