US Nordic combined athletes again struggle on jump |

US Nordic combined athletes again struggle on jump

Luke Graham

— The U.S. Nordic combined competitors all struggled through their morning jumps on Tuesday at the RusSki Gorki Center, making any sort of a podium finish very unlikely.

Competing in constant rain and fog in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, the Americans could never get their footing in the jumping portion of the Individual Gundersen Large Hill event.

Steamboat's Bryan Fletcher was the top American, tying for 27th place. He'll start the 10-kilometer cross country race 1 minute, 59 seconds behind leader Eric Frenzel of Germany.

"I would like to manage a top 10 today," Fletcher said. "I don't think a podium is in the question for me."

Taylor Fletcher was 36th and will start 2:13 back, while defending gold medalist Billy Demong had one of his worst jumps of the week, finishing 38th. He will start 2:18 back.

The Americans had been jumping better on the large hill in recent days. Demong in particular looked like he might be able to dial up the magic again and be a podium threat.

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He was constantly in the top 20 in training and even jumped into the top 10 several times.

But Tuesday he couldn't replicate that success.

"When I landed I knew it wasn't as good," Demong said. "I saw the scoreboard and I actually couldn't believe it. I had my mind set I was going to go further than that."

If there is any silver lining it was in the large drops pelting the snow Tuesday.

The conditions in the cross country would set up well for the United States. With rain continuing to blanket the course, the snow was expected to be soft. That's something the Americans should take advantage of.

"We're hoping it keeps pouring and gets soft and mushy," Taylor Fletcher said.

The Americans will also be able to use each other in the cross county.

Italian Alessandro Pittin, who had the fastest cross country time in the normal hill event, also starts just seconds after Demong.

But chasing the field will be tough, the Americans medal chances squashed again by poor jumps.

The best chance for a medal will come on Thursday in the team event.