Small steps in jumping making big difference for Fletchers
Steamboat Springs — The jumping has started to come around for the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team, and with it, so have the squad’s World Cup fortunes.
The team had its best day of the winter Sunday at a World Cup event in Chaux-Neuve, France, where the Steamboat Springs-born Fletcher brothers, Bryan and Taylor, both finished in the top 10.
It was the second time in their careers they’ve accomplished that together.
Taylor was fifth and Bryan eighth.
“It is a great feeling to produce this result and share the top 10 with my brother!” Taylor said in a U.S. Ski Team news release. “On to next weekend.”
The result was the best of the season for both brothers, but magnitudes better for Taylor, who more than anyone exemplified the team’s jumping struggles and now its turnaround.
His jumping didn’t allow him to compete in three of the first four individual competitions early on the schedule. He repeatedly failed to qualify among the top 50 jumpers and earn a spot in each weekend’s actual competitions.
He averaged in as the 60th best jumper those weekends.
That began to change this month.
In the last two World Cup weekends, Taylor has averaged as the 44th best jumper, a 27 percent improvement against the field.
This weekend’s results are the best evidence yet that he’s turned the corner.
He jumped 37th in the provisional round and 45th in the first competition jump on Saturday. He finished 35th in that race.
Soggy conditions required the provisional jumps be used. Starting 37th, Taylor flew by 32 competitors and was within sight of the lead pack before his legs gave way and he settled for his first top 10 of the season.
He finished with the day’s fastest ski time on the 10K course. Magnus Moan won the race, Magnus Krog was second 8.4 seconds back, and Bernhard Gruber finished third, 9.4 seconds back.
“I thought a podium was a possibility as I was pulling in Gruber and Krog but I ran out of power with a half kilometer to go,” said Taylor, who finished 21.8 seconds behind the winner.
Bryan had a very strong day as well, earning his third top-10 finish of the season. He started 25th and finished with the fourth-fastest time on the ski course, flying up into eighth.
He now has placed in the top 10 in three of his last four individual starts and his 25th-place provisional jump this weekend was one of the best of his season.
Elsewhere for the U.S. team, Billy Demong was 32nd and Adam Loomis 34th on Sunday. Loomis was especially strong on Saturday, finishing 21st for his best World Cup result.
“Another great step in the right direction today,” coach Dave Jarrett said of Sunday’s performances. “Taylor and Bryan skied very well. Honestly, we were hoping for all guys to be in the points today but Billy crashed in the third lap. Adam did a good job as well and almost skied into points too.”
The team now heads to Seefeld, Austria, for a trio of World Cups beginning Friday. If the team can keep up its stronger jumping, it could be a long and potential-packed weekend.
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