This Games has been really cool to me. —U.S. skier Bryan Fletcher
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Every Olympic experience has offered Bryan Fletcher something special — even the one he missed.
“This Games has been really cool to me,” said the Park City resident, who was the top U.S. finisher in the Nordic Combined individual event with a time of 25.35.4 — about 1:42.9 behind the winner. “In the past Olympics, getting to compete against and alongside guys like Billy Demong (gold and silver medalist, 2010) and my brother (Taylor), missing out on the 2010 Games is a positive memory for me. As much as it was a bummer at the time, I learned so much from that one moment, and watching those guys do well there. Coming into Sochi, I wanted to take part, I wanted to push myself, and maybe have a performance that was worthy of a medal there. But it didn’t happen.”
It was what the men of the U.S. Nordic Combined program, led by Demong, have been able to accomplish in the last four years that brings him the most satisfaction.
“I was really happy with the way we’ve turned it around over the last four years,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of challenges we’ve had to overcome, and I think we’ve done a great job overcoming them.” Skiing in what he called his last Olympic race, Fletcher said he felt good about his jump, and even better about his skiing, even if he second-guessed his strategy.
“My jumping was OK,” he said, with a slight laugh. “Definitely not my best and definitely not the dream jump I was hoping for, but a solid performance none the less. It put me in the chase group. If I had a really good race, I thought I could be close to the top 10, and of course anything can happen from there. It was a hard race for sure.”
Fletcher said he was in a group of very strong skiers, something he anticipated.
“I think I let up a little bit too much in the first three laps to be able to close the race with a good sprint,” he said. “I went out and had fun and laid it all out there. I was enjoying the hurt locker a little bit.”
Former University of Utah student and Park City resident Ben Berend offered a delightful celebration after his jump, which put him at No. 24 to start the cross-country race.
“That was probably the best jump I’ve had in a while,” he said after the jump but before the race. “When you consider the odds of having the best jump of maybe your season in the Olympics, it’s kind of funny. It was awesome.” Berend, 22, is one of the young rising stars that Fletcher spoke of. He finished 39th, just ahead of teammate Ben Loomis, as they crossed the line in 28:20.7 and 28:31.3, respectively.
Jasper Good finished 43rd with a time of 29:42.7.
“These guys are full of passion and energy for the sport,” Fletcher said. “And I just remember when I was their age, being in their shoes, and it’s super exciting to see.”
He knows that the program he is leaving, that his hard work helped build, is in good hands.
“It’s cool to be heading out of my career and watching theirs just taking off,” he said. “Being able to kind of mentor them over the last couple of years has been really special, and I hope they can go on to do great things in the future.”
There is a team event for Nordic Combined on Thursday night, but the roster for that has not been released yet.