A few years ago, distinguishing the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team’s veterans and newbies was relatively simple. On one side, you had the Olympic standouts – Billy Demong, Johnny Spillane and Todd Lodwick – then there were the Fletcher brothers: two promising youngsters with big goals and ambition to match.
Relative rookies, they hardly flew under the radar. Two years ago, Bryan broke through as the second American in the overall World Cup standings, placing 30th behind Lodwick in 28th. At age 24, the Steamboat Springs, Colo., native was named FasterSkier’s Nordic Combined Skier of the Year, and last season, he ranked 17th overall after topping the podium at World Cup Finals.
Not to be outdone by his older brother, Taylor, 22, rose from 36th overall last season to 16th in the World Cup standings this year. In late January, he notched his first World Cup podium in Seefeld, Austria, placing third in the individual normal-hill competition and shattered his career-best fifth from the day before.
A month later in Val di Fiemme, Italy, Taylor scrambled for the U.S. in the 4 x 5-kilometer team event at World Championships. There, he and his brother put their team in medal contention after the jumping portion, and Taylor made up 50 seconds on the leader to tag off in fifth. With Bryan, Lodwick and Demong, the U.S. men ultimately placed third for the nation’s first relay medal at World Championships.
“For sure, that was our goal,” U.S. head coach Dave Jarrett said at the awards ceremony. “We could’ve won as easily as gotten fifth, so to split the difference and get a medal is awesome.”
Performances like the Fletcher brothers’ made the difference (paired with Demong’s impressive anchor leg), he added, and at this point, they weren’t surprising.
“We knew [Taylor] was capable of doing this and now he’s showing he’s able to do it, too,” Jarrett said in Seefeld.
“I made it onto the big stage with some of the better skiers and now I know I can do it on any given weekend,” Fletcher said at the time. “I know my jumping can be better and the cross-country is just getting better and better, so I’m very excited.”
Bryan Fletcher (USST)
U.S. Nordic Combined Team
Billy Demong (USST)
Breakthrough Skier of the Year
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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.