One of U.S. Nordic Combined’s leading men, Bryan Fletcher, 28, recently spoke with the the International Ski Federation (FIS) for a segment called Tuesday Talk about the state of his team. In April, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) announced it would cease funding his sport, which would go into effect on July 31 — next Thursday.
FIS: After the season, you and your teammates received the difficult piece of news that there was a budget cut to come for the Nordic Combined athletes. How is the situation now, a couple of months later?
Bryan Fletcher: The news was a bit shocking. I think we all expected budgets cuts especially after the Olympic year but to cut our entire program was a bit of a shock. However, it only took us a moment to gather our thoughts and become motivated to rebuild and we have done that.
Today we are partnered with USA Ski Jumping, our new name will be “USA Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined.” There are some really cool projects that we will be collaborating on and we hope to bring to the table some extra help and collaboration in building an already impressive new organization. So to briefly answer the question we are looking much better then just a few short months ago.
FIS: Can you tell us a little bit more about the new structure that nordic combined in the USA will have?
BF: The most exciting thing about this new organization is that it opens us up to new sponsorship possibilities. The Nordic Combined team was rather handcuffed when it came to sponsors because of non compete clauses with the U.S. Ski Team. Now with this new organization in place we can go after new partnerships that are exciting, and most of all relevant to our sport and demographic that we couldn’t partner with before.
As an organization, this allows us to build from the ground up instead of the top down — meaning that there is going to be a future in both ski jumping and nordic combined in America with hopefully a strong pipeline.
“We are looking much better then just a few short months ago.” — Bryan Fletcher, 2014 Olympian and U.S. Nordic Combined veteran
FIS: At the same time, you have been elected as a member of the board of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. What do you hope to achieve in this role in the future?
BF: Yeah, this a huge opportunity for me to learn about how a non-profit works and also to be a voice of the athletes. It’s a big role that will take a little bit of time to get going on, but I am motivated to have a voice on the board and really take an active role in the issues at hand. We had some productive spring meetings and my hope is to continue the dialogue during the summer and winter to actually make some improvements, especially in the opportunities for athletes to set up their career outside of skiing so that when they are done skiing they have something to fall back on.
FIS: Focusing on the sports part of things: what have you been up to training-wise in the last few weeks?
BF: I have been training a lot, road biking a ton and that has been great this summer. Most of the guys on the team raced quite a few races this spring and now I am transitioning into more jumping and rollerskiing. Training has been fun — we recently had some awesome competitions in Steamboat [Colorado] over the 4th of July. It felt much like Europe, there were 2000 spectators rolling through and staying to drink beer and cheer on the jumping. In addition there was even an Austrian band playing traditional Alpenhorn songs. It was great!
“It felt much like Europe; there were 2000 spectators rolling through and staying to drink beer and cheer on the jumping.” — Fletcher on Steamboat Springs July 4 jumping festival.
FIS: With what kinds of goals do you go into this season full of new beginnings?
BF: My goal this season is to have no excuses. Despite our cutbacks I think I and our team can continue to make progress in the sport. And I would like to add a few more podiums to my results page this season.
FIS: This summer will also mark an important step for you personally: you are set to marry your fiancé Nicole [Thorsen]. When is the big day?
BF: Nikki and I are very excited! The big day is September 27th! All the planning is pretty much done and now we are just excited for the big day.