Park City event kick starts new era for Nordic combined
Steamboat Springs — A new era of ski jumping cooperation kicked off Sunday with the large hill U.S. Ski Jumping Championships at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City.
Nordic combined athletes have joined in with their special jumping brethren in the past for the event, but this year’s competition marked the first time they did so fully under the same umbrella.
Nordic combined joined in with the nation’s ski jumping teams in the USA Ski Jumping organization after the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team was largely cut from the United States Ski and Snowboard Association budget.
“It was really the first competition we’ve had together as a new entity, and we’re really seeing the effects of the partnership,” said Bryan Fletcher, the U.S. Nordic combined team member who was the top finisher among his teammates in the event.
Nita Englund, who trains in Steamboat Springs, led the way for local athletes, finishing second among the women, behind champion Jessica Jerome and ahead of third-place finisher Tara Gereghaty-Moats.
Fletcher finished sixth, on what he termed a good but not great day of jumping for him.
Minnesota ski jumper Christian Friberg won the men’s competition with 260.7 points. Mathew Rowley was second with 251.9 and Nicholas Alexander third with 245.9.
Fletcher said he took no shame in falling behind the trio and two more special jumpers, explaining that Nordic combined athletes strive to build out their bodies differently than ski jumpers to be able to handle the cross-country ski courses that make up half their sport.
He came in sixth with 219.1 points, just ahead of No. 7 Ben Berend, a fellow Nordic combined jumper and a fellow Steamboater. Taylor Fletcher was 20th overall, Brett Denney was 23rd, Koby Vargas 24th, Jasper Good 27th, Grant Andrews 29th, Adam Loomis 31st, Finn O’Connell 33rd, Nicholas Madden 35th and Michael Ward 37th.
“The partnership with USA Ski Jumping is awesome,” Bryan Fletcher said. “We’re really trying to up the level on both sides. There’s so much potential, and we’re all really excited about it on both sides — ski jumping and Nordic combined.”
Fletcher said fundraising for the new organization is still proceeding, but he’s hopeful the U.S. team’s top Nordic combined athletes will be able to compete in most, if not all, of this year’s World Cup events, as well as the World Championships.
Sunday’s jumping event followed a Nordic combined competition at the Park City venue on Saturday, where Fletcher once again proved the cream of the crop. He led after the jumping round — 16 seconds ahead of Berend and 88 seconds in front of Taylor Fletcher and Denney. Despite a charge from Taylor, Bryan held them off in a roller-ski race.
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