Fletcher skis fastest in summer heat of Germany
Steamboat Springs — With his brother and teammate Bryan at home in Park City, Utah, awaiting the birth of his first child, soon-to-be uncle Taylor Fletcher of the U.S. Ski Team sent a strong signal Aug. 28 that he’s still among the fastest skiers on the World Cup by posting the fastest time in the roller ski segment of the opening FIS Nordic combined Summer Grand Prix in Oberwiesenthal, Germany.
Fletcher flew to 26th in the ski jump phase of the competition, saddling him with a two-minute, 25-second handicap. That effort represented a significant improvement over his jump the day before in the team sprint event when he and Ben Berend, also of Steamboat, placed 14th. Fletcher’s jump of 93 meters Sunday was 8 meters longer than his effort on Saturday, and U.S. Head Coach Dave Jarrett said that was nearly good enough to put him in the medal chase.
“Taylor had a great race and was in the hunt for the podium, if not the win, but didn’t have it in the last 200 meters,” Jarrett said.
Fletcher finished 10.2 seconds out of first place in a field that included numerous World Cup veterans. His teammate Stephen Schumann, of Park City, placed 42nd in his Grand Prix debut.
Norwegian 18-year-old Jarl Magnus Riber won the competition on the strength of a 101-meter ski jump allowing him to begin the roller ski phase with a commanding lead. Riber held off Austrian Mario Sidel, who finished second, and Bjoern Kircheisen, of Germany, who finished third, for the win.
Fletcher’s fellow Americans Ben Loomis and Adam Loomis — the latter disqualified for a jumping suit violation — also took part in the individual competition with Ben Loomis placing 45th in the field of 52.
“Today was a good step forward,” Fletcher said in a news release. “I am pleased, for sure, but know I still have my work to do. I have had some really good jumps lately but haven’t had them in the competition yet. Today, I put in a great jump after my miss yesterday (in the team sprint) so that was a great feeling. I think this will help me relax knowing that with a jump like this I am in the hunt with my skiing, but of course the goal is to make it easier on the cross country side.”
Fletcher said, like all of the competitors, he was uncomfortable waiting for his turn to ski jump in the summer heat in Oberwiesenthal, which is on Germany’s border with the Czech Republic.
The Grand Prix tour moves to Villach, Austria, on Aug. 31.
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An alpine skier from Steamboat Springs hasn’t been to the Olympics since Caroline Lalive in 2002. The last time a male alpine skier from Steamboat made the Olympics was Chad Fleischer in 1998.