Fletcher “Finnish-es” 17th in Scandinavia at World Cup season opener
Steamboat Springs native Bryan Fletcher opened up the World Cup season Friday with a 17th place finish in Ruka, Finland.
“I was pretty happy, ” Fletcher said. “It’s always a guessing game here in Ruka, and you need a little bit of luck for things to go your way. The conditions were challenging, but the best jumpers obviously pulled through. I was happy with my jumping, and I think it was definitely a step in the right direction.”
Bryan, the only American to land in the final results, jumped to 18th place on the large hill, HS142, and then picked up one spot in the 5-kilometer cross country race that followed. He was 2 minutes, 47 seconds behind the winner Espen Andersen of Norway.
“Opening the season with a 5-kilometer race is pretty difficult. It was a fast race and definitely kind of a shocker,” Fletcher said. “I just went into it to see how it would play out. I was happy with my time, and I was able to move up a place … but it was so spread out from the jumping there wasn’t a whole lot that anybody could do in the cross country to move up a ton of places.”
Andersen was joined on the podium by teammate Jan Schmid in second and Japan’s Akito Watabe in third place in the first World Cup event of the season. The athletes will be back out on the large hill Saturday for an event that features a 10-kilometer cross country race. The activities in Ruka will wrap up on Sunday with the final event of three World Cup events.
Fletcher was the only American athlete to make the cut for Friday’s event. His teammate Ben Berend finished 60th, and brother Taylor Fletcher was 61st in the provisional jumping round, which is used to determine the field of international athletes that will compete in the official round.
“Everybody is jumping at a really high level,” Bryan Fletcher said. “If you have a jump where you just miss it a little bit here, or a little bit there, then it has a big impact. Those guys yesterday really wanted to be in the game and tried really hard, but missed their mark just a bit and that was enough to knock them at of the competition.”
Andersen turned in a strong showing in the opening event where he jumped to second place in the jumping portion just 4 seconds behind Austria’s Mario Seidl who narrowly beat out the Norwegian in the jumping portion. Seidl fell to fourth after the cross country portion. Watabe be was third and Schmid was sixth after the jumping portion. Andersen had the 21st fastest cross country time, but it was more than enough to hold off his teammate for the top spot on the podium. Schmid has the third fastest cross country time of the day helping him move from sixth into second in the final standings.
For Bryan Fletcher, the race was a good start to the season.
“It’s kind of funny. You train all summer and work your butt off, so it’s easy to forget that it’s a relief when the start of the season finally gets here,” he said. “Today I kind of remembered that. The season is here, this is exciting and is going to be fun. It was cool to kick things off and get going again.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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