Brothers Fletcher to Battle it Out for Olympic Spot
Call it brotherly love now, but come Saturday Bryan and Taylor Fletcher are expected to battle it out head-to-head for a spot on the 2018 Olympic Nordic Combined Team and a $10,000 winner-take-all payout. The Olympic Trials for nordic combined kick off a weekend of events at Park City’s Utah Olympic Park.
A field of nine athletes will be vying for one nordic combined team spot with ski jumping beginning at 9:30 a.m. and the 10k cross country at 1:00 p.m. It’s free for spectators.
Despite being brothers, the Fletchers each want the win. “It’s an interesting dynamic.,” said Bryan. “We’re each working together to be the best each of us can be. But we also know that the two of us are ultimately gunning for the line. I might keep a few tactics to myself.”
Brother Taylor, acknowledged as one of the top nordic combined cross country skiers in the world, summed up the grueling five-lap course simply: “It will be deadly. I hope we all stay on our feet on the downhills as they are very fast.”
The two kilometer course is situated in the jump stadium with the start and finish in the outrun. Spectators will see the athletes five times. The stadium is the high point of the course which screams down a twisty turn set of downhills - including a few near-180-degree corners - before a long, gut wrenching climb back up.
A key for Taylor will be how he jumps Saturday morning. ”My jumping is still not where I am wanting it to be but is very close to being competitive,” he said. “I am looking for one solid jump tomorrow and I think the rest will end up on track.”
Brother Bryan is in an interesting position seeking to make his second Olympic team (Taylor is shooting for his third). A top 10 World Cup finish in Ramsau, Austria has put him into team qualifying position. “That doesn’t change my approach at all,” he said. “Theres a lot of money on the line. And nothing’s guaranteed for Olympic selection - other athletes could get top 10s, too.”
While Saturday’s winner will get a trip to PyeongChang, the remainder of the team will be announced the week of January 22.
Both the Fletchers also know full well that their position is not secure. According to Bryan, the entire team is skiing at a high level right now. In Friday’s jump training, Ben Loomis (Eau Claire, Wis.) led both rounds. Jasper Good (Steamboat Springs, Colo.) and Stephen Schumann (Park City, Utah) also looked strong in training jumps.
The event will be televised on NBC, airing Sunday beginning at 1:00 p.m. EST.