Steamboat’s Taylor Fletcher announces retirement from Nordic combined

Taylor Fletcher races at a 2020 World Cup competition in Ramsau, Austria. After 13 years on the circuit, he has announced his retirement. (Photo by Romina Eggert)

The men’s large hill event on Sunday, March 6, in Oslo, Norway, marked the end of an era. Four-time Olympian and Steamboat Springs-raised Nordic combined athlete Taylor Fletcher competed in his final World Cup event.

Fletcher announced his retirement on Instagram on Friday, March 4, after competing professionally for more than a decade.

The Beijing Olympics marked Fletcher’s fourth and final Games. With the new Olympiad cycle beginning, he saw this winter as a logical stopping point for his career. He knew he wouldn’t be competing in four years, and he has a work opportunity, so retirement felt like the natural next step.

“Honestly, I’ve been thinking about it all year,” Fletcher said. “I didn’t want to tell too many people and have the word trickle out at the beginning of the season or too early. It’s been in the back of my mind for the last four or so years. I kind of had this as a good ending point for me.”

Fletcher’s brother knows just how hard contemplating retirement can be, as he decided to retire four years ago.

“I would just like to say congrats to him,” Bryan Fletcher said. “It’s not an easy decision to retire and certainly one that probably causes a lot of turmoil in a lot of athletes’ lives. To finally make that decision and trust that’s the best thing for you is probably a huge weight off of your back.”

Taylor Fletcher will conclude his career at a Continental Cup event this weekend in Park City, Utah. Then he will focus on finishing his business degree and working at Athletic Republic. With less time spent traveling and training, he’ll be able to have a family Thanksgiving for the first time in over a decade.

“There hasn’t been Thanksgiving,” said Penny Fletcher, Taylor’s mother. “I don’t even know when the last time it was I had Thanksgiving with my kids. It’s been probably close to 18 years. … For that matter, even having a Christmas that’s not interrupted and we’ll all be together, this is going to be a very special Christmas.”

An impressive resume

Taylor Fletcher has been competing on the World Cup level since January 2009, making 155 World Cup starts. He’s been to four Olympics, made 22 starts at World Ski Championships and won two World Cup medals and a World Championship medal.

This year, he earned career-best finishes at the Olympics, including the fastest time on the course in the team event in Beijing.

Fletcher has always been one of the fastest skiers on the World Cup circuit, something he’s most proud of in his career.

“To be fast every year, it takes a lot of work,” Fletcher said. “I was able to keep the body moving in the right direction, and I’ve had great coaches who have helped me along the way on the cross-country side and on the jumping side. It’s made it very enjoyable.”

Jumping used to be Fletcher’s strength when he was younger, competing at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, but as he grew older, jumping has become the bane of competitions. Still, he knows he is lucky to have experienced such a sensation as ski jumping.

“It’s the coolest sport in the world,” Fletcher said. “You’re flying through the air, and it’s as close as you can get to actually flying. That’s the one thing I’ll miss the most.”

His career included a pair of third-place finishes, which he earned in 2013 and 2015. He’s also particularly proud of his World Ski Championships bronze in the team relay, which he earned in 2013 alongside his brother Bryan, Todd Lodwick and Billy Demong.

Taylor Fletcher concluded his time on the World Cup with a Champagne shower as he crossed the finish line 37th in the large hill event.

He’s the only member remaining from the historic 2010 Olympic team and is considered the “old man” of the team because he’s six years older than the next oldest team member and 13 years older than the youngest members.

He’s served as a veteran leader for the young squad, but Fletcher is stepping back and ready to see the new athletes take over.

“It was Taylor’s time to retire,” Penny said. “Not because he didn’t have the passion for it and not because he wasn’t physically there, but (because) it’s time for the new athletes to start moving on; it’s time to build up USA Nordic with these younger athletes. He’s going to be there in spirit and in support in the years to come to continue building up USA Nordic combined.”

U.S. Nordic combined skier Taylor Fletcher flies down Howelsen Hill during a 2018 Continental Cup event in Steamboat Springs.
Joel Reichenberger/Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

New opportunities

Taylor Fletcher didn’t want to leave athletics and be stranded, so he started planning for retirement some time ago, as advised by his brother.

“Just approach everything with an open mind,” Bryan Fletcher said. “There’s a lot to do and see in the world and Nordic combined is a very, very small part of it. Going into the real world, you always have to be willing to learn and willing to try new things and explore who you are outside of the sport.”

Taylor Fletcher will spend the next year finishing up a degree in business administration, which he’s been chipping away at for years, taking one or two classes a semester.

He’ll complete that degree and continue working with Athletic Republic, a franchised fitness company that has locations across the country. Fletcher has worked with Athletic Republic for a while and will have an expanded role now that he’ll be working full-time rather than competing.

“Taylor, I just can’t wait to see what his next chapter is going to be in his book,” Penny said. “I look forward to seeing what his adventures are going to be in the future. I know they’ll all be positive. He’s a great teacher to young kids and I kind of see him moving on with these kids and teaching them.”

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