Steamboat’s Fletcher to get Olympic start today |

Steamboat’s Fletcher to get Olympic start today

19-year-old will compete in individual Nordic combined event

Luke Graham

Steamboat Springs’ Taylor Fletcher, left, skis with Nordic combined teammate Billy Demong during a training session earlier this week. Fletcher learned Wednesday that he will get a spot in the large hill individual Gundersen event today.

Steamboat Springs' Taylor Fletcher, left, skis with Nordic combined teammate Billy Demong during a training session earlier this week. Fletcher learned Wednesday that he will get a spot in the large hill individual Gundersen event today.
John F. Russell

— At just 19, Steamboat Springs' Taylor Fletcher has been able to watch his U.S. Nordic combined teammates make history.

But as the fifth member of the team, Fletcher has sat out all of the Nordic combined events, competing only in Monday's special jumping team event, as a last-minute replacement.

That'll all change today, however.

With two silvers in the Nordic team's bag and a keen eye on the future, Fletcher will take Brett Camerota's place in the large hill Gundersen individual event.

The event begins with trial jumps at 10 a.m. and the competition jump round at 11 a.m. Mountain Standard Time.

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The change was made early Wednesday, after U.S. coach Dave Jarrett and Camerota decided it would be good for Fletcher to experience the Olym­pics.

"Brett stepped up and gave Taylor a spot," Jarrett said. "It was a classy move and shows that the team and the future of the sport is more important than an individual result."

Camerota said Wednesday that he was more than happy to let Fletcher experience the Olympics. The recent silver medalist said just about his entire focus coming into the games was Tuesday's team event.

"Even though I'm jumping really well, I just think my main goal is that team event," Camerota said. "Everything worked out, and I didn't think too far past it. I was fine with letting Taylor ski the last one. I'll tell him to just relax and have fun. I know that won't be hard to do."

Fletcher said regardless of being able to compete, he's enjoyed his first Olympic experience. Finding out Wednesday he'd actually compete made it that much better. Fletcher said he didn't think he'd be nervous before the event and said he's going to draw on this experience and take it back to the next echelon of American Nordic combined skiers.

"It's going to be a really good experience for me," he said. "I'll shows those young kids, like Cliff (Field), Nick (Hendrickson), that if they put in the hard work and focus together, they're going to be here soon enough. We all have a good chance of qualifying for 2014."

That might be the biggest thing the 2010 Winter Olympic Games have done for the Nordic combined team. In a way, the United States' success has opened up the sport to the next generation of skiers.

Skiers like Fletcher.

"The next generation will always try to beat the last," Billy Demong said after Tuesday's team event. "It's a much more educated public and press than what Nordic combined used to be."

Fletcher has struggled with his jumping in Whistler, British Columbia. He said he's not going to put any expectations on today; rather, he's just going to enjoy the experience.

Keeping that mind-set will be key, Jarrett said.

"Taylor has to keep things in perspective, and he is young and that's hard to do," Jarrett said. "If you look at where he was last year at this time and said, 'You are going to start in the Olympics next year,' I don't think anyone would have taken you up on that one."

Fletcher said he would heed that advice. He knows he won't be on the podium today, but he also knows that today will be special and hopefully the first of many Olympic experiences.

"What I've been doing in training has paid off," he said. "The coaches have been really good about it. Definitely, it's unique to say, 'I'm 19, and I've been to the Olympics.' It's also unique to say, 'I'm 19 and will be competing in two different sports at the Olympics.' It's a great way to have fun and enjoy the experience."

Fletchers excited to watch son's race

It's hard to tell who is more excited, 19-year-old Taylor Fletcher or his parents.

The one thing that is for certain is that Penny Fletcher and her ex-husband, Tim, will be two of the most excited people at Whistler Olympic Park when the large hill Nordic combined individual event takes place today at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

"It's over the top," Tim Fletcher said about having Taylor competing in today's event. He didn't expect to get any sleep on the eve of his son's first Olympic start in Nordic combined, but he said that wouldn't stop him from being one of the first people at the jumping venue in the morning.

"I'll be the one glowing at the bottom of the hill and out at the cross-country," he said. "It's an honor to know that your son will have a chance to compete at the Olympics. When he's out there tomorrow, I'll be the tallest person in the spectator area."

Tim is a longtime Steamboat Springs resident who works as a ski patroller at Howelsen Hill. He traveled to Whistler, British Columbia, to watch his son compete in the Olympics.

The moment also will be special for Penny Fletcher, who received a grant through Procter & Gamble's "Thanks, Mom" program to come watch her son compete.

"I'm ecstatic; I'm just so happy for him and that he will have his very first start in the sport of Nordic combined," she said. "It's just so incredibly satisfying that Taylor is surrounded by athletes like the ones on this team. I'm glad that he has had a chance to be involved with people like the Lodwicks, Spillanes and Camerotas."

Penny said she was overwhelmed when she heard that Brett Camerota had given up his spot so Taylor could compete.

"I think it says a lot about this group's sense of team and their dedication to the future of the sport."