Bryan Fletcher had never won a national title before Oct. 12 – a surprising fact considering that he stood atop a nordic combined World Cup podium in 2012 and was a World Championship medalist in 2013.
His search for a win on home soil ended Sunday when Fletcher jumped and skied to victory at the U.S. Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined Championships in Lake Placid, N.Y. only several weeks after his late-September wedding.
The Steamboat Springs, Colo. native flew 90.5 meters to take a 1 minute 34 second advantage over his younger brother Taylor. In the rollerski Fletcher was able to hold off Taylor to take the victory by 56 seconds.
Fletcher, who has consistently finished third or fourth in previous U.S. Championships, said that Sunday’s victory was a goal he had been working to accomplish for many years.
“I’ve been chasing that dream for quite a while,” Fletcher said in a phone interview. “It was extremely elusive for me to get that national title. It’s always been stiff competition, so to finally have that under my belt and say that I’m a national champion definitely feels really good.”
According to Fletcher, he was able to take advantage of a low speed jump that spread out the competition. However, he knew a 1 minute and 34 second advantage was short enough for Taylor, who has traditionally been a stronger nordic skier, to catch him.
This time Fletcher was able to hold onto his lead and cross the finish line with a time of 26:10.5. Taylor posted the fastest rollerski time on the day, and finished with a total time of 27:06.5. Third place went to Adam Loomis (+1:58.9).
For Fletcher, the result confirms a summer and fall of consistent and productive preparation. Unlike past years, he and much of the team spent the majority of their training hours in Park City, Utah due to uncertainty surrounding the nordic combined budget. Fletcher said that the team’s domestic concentration allowed for focused and valuable training.
“It was perfect to be in one spot and refocus and redevelop our program,” he said. “Because of that our training has really benefitted. I’m really happy where I’m at going into the winter season. That being said, we still have a lot to do in terms of prep.”
Fletcher hopes the confidence from his solid training and national title will aid in his season goals of another World Cup podium and World Championship medal.
The Lake Placid competition was the last event for Fletcher and the rest of the U.S. Nordic Combined Team before departing for a training block in Europe.
After Sunday’s competition the A, B, and C teams boarded a flight to Switzerland where they are currently participating in a training camp with the Swiss National Team. The group of roughly 15 Americans will also have the opportunity to compete in the Swiss nationals to earn further jumping and racing experience before the winter racing season begins.
Once they complete their time in Switzerland, the team will head to Oberstdorf, Germany where they will continue to train at the city’s ice track.
The 2014/2015 winter’s first FIS Nordic Combined World Cup weekend will take place in Ruka, Finland Nov. 29 and 30.
Lander Karath is FasterSkier's Associate Editor from Bozeman, Montana and a Bridger Ski Foundation alumnus. Between his studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, he is an outdoor enthusiast and a political junkie.