U.S. Nordic combined skiers jump to high finishes
Steamboat Springs — The story for at least four years now with U.S. Nordic combined athletes has been that when their jumping is there, the potential for high finishes is, as well.
Competitions last weekend proved that again, with U.S. skiers on both the Continental Cup and World Cup levels.
On the World Cup, Steamboat Springs skier Bryan Fletcher started his weekend with a qualification round jump so misjudged he missed the first of three days of competition in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
He bounced back so far, however. He placed 13th on the third day, only his second top-15 finish of the season.
“Sunday was closer,” he said. “The weekend was a little tough jumping wise. It was really challenging, and the jumping level is so high a small mistake will keep you out of the competition. You have to shake it off and reset yourself for the next day, and luckily, I was able to do that.”
In between those two individual competitions was a team event where Taylor Fletcher and Bryan Fletcher teamed up to place eighth. Jumping again limited them.
They started at the back of the 16-team field in the cross-country portion, but the brothers managed to work their way through half the field. They started 1 minute, 41 seconds behind the leaders and shaved 61 seconds off that time in the 15-kilometer race.
Taylor Fletcher’s best performance of the weekend came in Friday’s race. He jumped into the back of the field, 46th, but skied himself up for a 21st-place finish with the day’s fourth-fastest ski time.
Taylor was then 30th in Sunday’s race.
Bryan also made up serious ground on Sunday, climbing to 13th from a 33rd-place start.
“I jumped right with Mikko (Kokslien), who’s also a very strong skier, and we starting working together and pushing the pace,” Bryan said. “We caught the group in front of us and kept moving forward throughout the race. We almost came in contact with the lead pack, and we’d have been fighting for the podium. It was a surprise. I didn’t expect to make up that much time, but every race is a different story.”
Also on the World Cup, Ben Loomis was 39th on Sunday and Steamboat’s Ben Berend was 40th.
Good locks up first top-10
The weekend may have been even better for U.S. skiers on the Continental Cup, competing in Ruka, Finland.
Adam Loomis had the best finish, placing seventh on Sunday in the second of the two weekend events.
Steamboat Springs skier Jasper Good shined brightest in the other event, placing ninth. It was the best Continental Cup performance ever for good, and since 2011 for Loomis.
Good jumped to seventh, then held onto his top-10 position in the 10-kilometer race. He had the 24th-best ski time, and it took him to his first top-10 finish.
“It was my best jump result so I definitely had a different mindset going into the race,” Good said. “It was fun to ski more tactically. I was able to ski with several athletes until the Finnish athlete who started behind me caught up, then I skied with him for most of the race.”
Good was gassed by the end and struggled up two big, final hills but was still good enough.
“I was pumped,” he said.
Good placed 14th in Sunday’s event.
The weekend also marked Steamboat Springs’ Grant Andrews entry into the Continental Cup scene. He had 36th- and 39th-place finishes. Park City skier Stephen Schumann was strong, as well, racing to 13th- and 18th-place finishes.
Loomis was 30th in his second race, meaning six of the team’s eight starts resulted in top-30 finishes.
“It was a very solid weekend for the team,” Good said. “We have been able to keep a fun, upbeat atmosphere going into the weekend, which I think helped. I see that attitude continuing. It’s a good place for our team to be in. It makes for fun times.”
Now that team is headed to Estonia for competitions this weekend. The World Cup squad is in France for races Saturday and Sunday.
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