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Trio of Steamboat skiers set to soar

World champs, Olympic preview on schedule for 2016-17 NC season

Taylor Fletcher, competing last season at a Continental Cup event in Soldier Hollow, Utah, is one of three Steamboat Springs Nordic combined skiers poised to kick off the 2016-17 season this weekend in Finland.
Joel Reichenberger

2016-17 World Cup Nordic combined schedule

Saturday Ruka, Finland HS142/10K

Sunday Ruka, Finland HS142/10K

Dec. 2 Lillehammer, Norway HS100/4x5K team relay

Dec. 3 Lillehammer, Norway HS100/10K

Dec. 4 Lillehammer, Norway HS138/10K

Dec. 17 Ramsau, Austria HS98/10K

Dec. 18 Ramsau, Austria HS98/10K

Jan. 7 Lahti, Finland HS130/10K

Jan. 8 Lahti, Finland HS130/10K

Jan. 13 Val di Fiemme, Italy HS134/10K

Jan. 14 Val di Fiemme, Italy HS134/2x7.5k team relay

Jan. 15 Val di Fiemme, Italy HS134/10K

Jan. 21 Chaux-Nueve, France HS118/19K

Jan. 22 Chaux-Nueve, France HS118/19K

Jan. 27 Seefeld, Austria HS109/5K

Jan. 28 Seefeld, Austria HS109/10K

Jan. 29 Seefeld, Austria HS109/15K

Feb. 4 PyeongChang, South Korea HS140/4x5K team relay

Feb. 5 PyeongChang, South Korea HS140/10K

Feb. 10 Sapporo, Japan HS134/10K

Feb. 11 Sapporo, Japan HS134/10K

Feb. 24 Lahti, World Championships HS100/10K

Feb. 26 Lahti, World Championships HS100/4x5K team relay

March 1 Lahti, World Championships HS130/10K

March 3 Lahti, World Championships HS130/2x7.5K

March 11 Oslo HS134/10K

March 15 Trondheim, Norway HS140/10K

March 18 Schonach, Germany HS106/10K

March 19 Schonach, Germany HS106/15K

— It was dark but warm Wednesday in Ruka, Finland, where a trio of Steamboat Springs skiers will make up the U.S. team Saturday when the World Cup Nordic combined circuit jumps off in Ruka, Finland.

Steamboat brothers Bryan Fletcher and Taylor Fletcher have each been competing on the circuit for nearly a decade, and Ben Berend will start in on his third season with at least one World Cup start.

“We’re definitely excited to get comps going,” Bryan Fletcher said Wednesday. “It was a good summer of training, so we will see how the fitness and jumping looks in competition.”

The season starts with a pair of World Cups, Saturday and Sunday, in Ruka.

From there, the tour trots around the world to regular competitive spots such as Seefeld, Austria, Chaux-Neuve, France, and Oslo but also to PyeongChang, South Korea, in early February. That stop, a first for the circuit, will come a year before the venue will play host to the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The climax, when the team hopes to be hitting its training peak, looms with the World Championships in late February and early March in Lahti, Finland.

Seven skiers make up the 2016-17 U.S. Nordic Combined Team. In addition to the Fletchers and Berend, Steamboat Springs skier Jasper Good is on the list with brothers Adam Loomis and Ben Loomis, both from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and Park City, Utah, skier Stephen Schumann, the youngest of the bunch at just 16 years old.

Not all of those skiers will get a shot on the World Cup, however, at least not initially. While the U.S. has had the results to command as many as five World Cup starting spots in recent seasons, those have dwindled to just three regular spots in the face of lackluster results in recent seasons.

The Fletchers and Berend will get their first chances in Ruka at a pair of identical individual events on a large-hill jump with a 10-kilometer race.

That changes in the second week, however, when a four-man team event will allow Ben Loomis, with just one World Cup event under his belt, to join the squad for a trio of events in Lillehammer, Norway. There, they’ll compete first in a normal-hill, 20K relay with each skier taking a 5K segment.

They’ll follow that up the next two days with individual competitions on the normal and large hills.

Scoring points by getting into the top 30 skiers will be key for those athletes newer to the series. Berend has 13 World Cup starts but hasn’t cracked the top 30, the spot at which skiers earn World Cup points.

A breakthrough point-scoring performance this weekend in the darkness of Ruka would potentially earn the United States back a fourth World Cup spot going forward.

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


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