Bryan Fletcher skis to 9th in Lillehammer
Steamboat Springs — It was somewhat of a snakebit start to the season for the U.S. Nordic combined team Nov. 26 and 27 when the team competed in Ruka, Finland.
But on Sunday, World Cup veteran Bryan Fletcher started to turn that around, putting up the team’s strongest individual result since last January when he raced to a ninth-place finish, capping a three-day weekend of World Cup racing in Lillehammer, Norway.
“I’ve been jumping well and on a pretty consistent basis, but haven’t been able to put it together in competition for whatever reason,” he said. “Today was a day I went out there with some confidence and went for it. It felt like finally everything clicked.”
Fletcher jumped into 22nd place Sunday, his best jump of the season. He then skied the day’s sixth-fastest race on the 10-kilometer course, staying ahead of a big crowd behind him while slowly picking his way forward and into the top 10.
It was the best individual finish for Fletcher and the team since he was seventh in a World Cup in January.
“It’s only a ninth-place finish, so it wasn’t a perfect day,” he said. “We still have room to improve, but there’s momentum there, and we can definitely take some confidence from this result.”
Taylor Fletcher actually had the day’s fastest skiing time and that moved him from 48th after the jump to 26th. It was his second-consecutive 26th-place finish in Lillehammer.
Ben Berend was 49th overall after a 27th-place jump and Ben Loomis was in at 52nd after jumping to 45th.
Taylor Fletcher’s 26th-place finish Saturday led the way for the U.S. team in that competition. Bryan Fletcher was 32nd, Loomis 43rd and Berend 44th.
That four-some combined to place ninth Friday in a team relay event. It jumped to seventh place and raced up as far as far as sixth before slipping back.
“It was a good, solid day,” Bryan Fletcher said. “Everyone skied well, and it was a good learning experience. We’re not expecting to be competitors in the team event right away, but hopefully, we will be in the future.”
Fletcher’s top-10 performance in Norway highlighted a weekend that was a significant improvement upon the season opener in Finland.
There, little seemed to go right for the team.
Berend jumped very well in a qualification round but didn’t in the first competition, falling short enough U.S. coaches decided he’d be better off saving his energy for the next day.
That next day, he jumped very well again, only to be disqualified for forgetting to fully zip up his jump suit.
Taylor Fletcher had a binding for his jump ski snap in the cold weather as he waited for his turn. Things didn’t get better in the cross-country ski portion of that race, either, when he was jostled right off the course as skiers battled for position on one section of the course.
No one on the team put up particularly strong results, and the weekend was capped by Bryan Fletcher’s 23rd-place showing in the first event.
The Germans have so far dominated the circuit. They’ve claimed eight of the 12 individual podium spots up for grabs so far, and Johannes Rydzek and Eric Frenzel have already each claimed two victories. They also easily won Friday’s team event in Lillehammer, coasting in with a 32-second advantage.
The World Cup now takes a weekend off before returning for one final 2016 weekend, Dec. 17 and 18, in Ramsau, Austria.
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