Since arriving in Lillehammer, Norway, a few weeks ago, the US Nordic Combined Team has been seeking big things. Well, maybe not right off the bat, but any professional athlete wants good results.
Bryan Fletcher, 26, led the effort by continuing to improve his, placing 14th in the individual large-hill competition Saturday and ninth with brother Taylor in the team event Sunday. That was up from Bryan’s results in Lillehammer, where he was 22nd in the penalty race and 38th in the preceding normal-hill competition.
This weekend, the Fletchers were the lone Americans to qualify for Saturday after Friday’s provisional jumping round . Bryan ranked eighth on the large hill and Taylor squeaked by in 47th to make the top-50 standard. Billy Demong was 51st in the provisional round and Todd Lodwick was last in 61st.
“Not what I was expecting today on the hill,” Lodwick tweeted on Friday, nearly a week after leading the U.S. in 24th in Lillehammer Nov. 24. “As one might say, only up from here!!! Keeping my head up …”
On Saturday, Bryan ranked 11th on the hill while Taylor was disqualified because of his equipment. Bryan went on to post the 13th-fastest ski time for an overall finish of 14th, 33 seconds behind winner Jason Lamy Chappuis of France.
“I kicked of the weekend by having the longest jump in the first round of official training,” Bryan wrote on his blog Monday. “I followed that up with two more solid jumps and placed 8th in the provisional comp. This brought my confidence up and I was ready to go for real the next day.
“Saturday we were fortunate to have decent conditions on the hill and I was able to keep my jumping alive by placing 11th,” he added. “Going into the XC I was a little nervous seeing as last weekend was not my most spectacular racing by any means. After the first lap I found myself fighting for the podium, feeling good like my normal self. I gave it a valiant effort but was unsuccessful in staying with the group. I finished a respectable 14th place. I had the 13th fastest time though which shows that the shape is coming.”
Excited to team up with his brother in Sunday’s two-man event, the two put themselves in ninth after the jump.
“The snow was a major factor on Sunday, many of the teams struggled with the jumping portion,” Bryan wrote. “Taylor stepped up huge in his jumping and that was a big factor in our placing.”
In the race, in which teammates alternate laps, the Fletchers were gunning for the top six until the second to last lap.
“Once we lost contact with the group 9th place was our clear placement,” Bryan explained. “However both Tay and I came into the day with no expectations and to be honest we were surprised to even be in the hunt. There is still a lot of work to be done but at least we know we are on the right track.”
On Monday, the US Nordic Combined men were flying back to Park City, Utah, where they’ll spend a week training before heading to the World Cup in Ramsau, Austria, Dec. 15-16. (they are skipping next weekend’s World Cup in Erzurum, Turkey).
“I am excited to continue the momentum [in Ramsau],” Bryan wrote. “Hopefully combine some solid jump results with races just like the first day in Kuusamo.”
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.