Americans look to large hill event |

Americans look to large hill event

Luke Graham
Bryan Fletcher eyes his landing during jump training at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Joel Reichenberger

— After battling the normal hill last week, the United States Nordic combined team returned to the jumping hill at RusSki Gorki Jumping Center in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, for three days of training geared toward hitting the reset button.

Mission accomplished.

The Americans wrapped up their final day of training Monday, capping the warmup for Tuesday’s individual Gundersen large hill event with three practice jumps.

After three training jumps Saturday and Sunday, jumps on the large hill progressively got better.

“I think, like we said, this big hill is a little better for us,” Bryan Fletcher said. “I think anything in the top 15 (jumping wise) puts me close enough to the front that I could be in a fight for a medal.”

That’s a far cry from a week ago when the United States couldn’t figure out jumping on the normal hill.

Monday proved to be the best jumping day yet.

Defending large hill gold medalist Billy Demong led the way for the Americans, finishing eighth, 21st and 11th in his three jumps Monday.

Demong, who was the top American in 24th in the normal hill event, said the large hill jump allows jumpers to attack more.

“On the big hill, you can go after your skis a bit,” he said. “You can feel the effect of flying. You didn’t feel that on the normal hill. It was really challenging.”

Bryan Fletcher logged three training jumps all in the top 26 on Monday. Brother Taylor Fletcher’s struggles on the jump hill continued as he finished each jump near the bottom of the standings.

“It’s just not the easiest thing,” Taylor Fletcher said. “Right now, my frustration level is high. You don’t want to be in this position. It sucks.”

Although Taylor Fletcher’s struggles likely will leave him out of the medal hunt, Demong and Bryan Fletcher each should be in a position Tuesday to be competitive.

Demong wouldn’t say where he feels like he needs to jump to have a shot at defending his gold medal.

Judging from the cross-country portion of the normal hill event, the course is tough for skiers to move up.

Demong and Bryan Fletcher likely would have to be in the top 15 in the jumping to have a fair shot at a medal.

“The cards fall so differently every race,” Demong said. “It’s possible to start 20th or 30th some days and get to the podium. There are other days where if you’re not in the top five, you can forget about it. Really, for me, it’s just a matter of having the best jump I can and take a look at the start list. I just know I need to give myself a better chance than I did in the normal hill.”

Lodwick still recovering

Steamboat’s Todd Lodwick said his injured shoulder is improving.

The six-time Olympian plans on competing in the team event Thursday. He has been practicing on the large hill the past three days, putting down solid jumps.

But it’s the skiing part that is of interest. Lodwick did intervals on the cross-country course Sunday, testing his shoulder.

“I got the arm to work,” Lodwick said. “Coaches are still putting the reins on me. But so far, so good. We take every day as a success.”

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229, email or follow him on Twitter @LukeGraham

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