Nordic combined skiers get stuck in the slush |

Nordic combined skiers get stuck in the slush

— The story was certainly different Friday as the U.S. Nordic combined team opened its stint at the 2015 Nordic World Championships in Falun, Sweden.

All four competing members of the squad were in strong positions after the jump Friday, but they couldn’t make up any ground in the skiing portion, exactly the opposite of the battle the team usually fights, jumping toward the back of the pack and fighting to make up for that in the skiing portion of the race.

“I was very happy to see the team jump well,” Bryan Fletcher said. “We are inching closer and closer to being in contention. Unfortunately the race did not go our way.”

Steamboat Springs’ Taylor Fletcher was the top U.S. finisher, crossing the line in the 10-kilometer race in 19th position. It was one of his best individual performances in a World Championship, after a 17th place finish in 2013 in Italy.

Fletcher was 1 minute, 32.5 seconds behind gold-medal winner Johannes Rydzek of Germany. Alessandro Pittin was second for silver and Jason Lamy Chappuis third, grabbing bronze.

Bryan Fletcher was right on brother Taylor’s heels, finishing 21st in 1:40.9. Billy Demong was 25th, 1:51.8 back, and Ben Berend was 45th, 4:54.6 behind the leader.

None of the U.S. skiers made up time in the cross country portion, a rare problem for the team to have.

After the jumping portion, they were all inside the top 25, and their fastest skier, Taylor Fletcher, was only 1:31 off the leader. Billy Demong, the Olympic and World Champion likely working through his final competition, looked in the prime of his career with a 10th-place jump. In his first major competition, Steamboater Ben Berend leaped to 16th place. Bryan Fletcher, too, was right in the mix, jumping to 20th.

Demong, starting 58 seconds after the leader, climbed as high as seventh but eventually slipped back.

Taylor Fletcher climbed as high as 13th and was within 35 seconds of the lead pack, but he too slowed late in the race, giving up a minute and six spots.

“I started out well but maybe a little hard,” Taylor Fletcher said. “The problem was I felt like someone else and not myself. I was searching for clean lines but wasn’t confident on the downhills. I have good form and know it, but missed out on the opportunity.”

Bryan Fletcher spent much of the race inside the top 20, and Berend, right with the Fletchers through one lap, faded after that, finishing well back.

“It was tough conditions on the course, really deep slush, and that makes for some tough racing,” Bryan Fletcher said. “The entire team gave it our all but we couldn’t quite get the results we were hoping.”

The team now will prepare for the first team competition, a four-man relay set for Sunday. That event will be the second of four Nordic combined competitions at this year’s World Championships.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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