Bryan Fletcher at the U.S. Ski Jumping Championships at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City, Utah.
Photo Tom Kelly Athlete Bryan Fletcher Feb 5 2016
Taylor (left) and Bryan (right) Fletcher suited up.
Athletes Taylor Fletcher, Bryan Fletcher Feb 5 2016
U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team members Bryan Fletcher (Steamboat Springs, CO) and Taylor Fletcher (Steamboat Springs, CO) stand proudly in front of the Olympic jumps at the Utah Olympic Park, getting ready for the 2015-16 World Cup season.
Photo U.S. Ski Team Athletes Taylor Fletcher, Bryan Fletcher Feb 5 2016
Bryan Fletcher pushing through for the USA!
Photo Picasa Athlete Bryan Fletcher Feb 5 2016
Perfectly poised until take off.
Feb 5 2016
In continuation with highlighting some of Utah’s local snow lovers, Ski Utah connected with Bryan and Taylor Fletcher. While these brothers are as widely known as their sport, Nordic Combined, they are an integral part of winter sports community. Park City locals, Westminster College attendees, Olympic athletes and entrepreneurs – Ski Utah was lucky enough to find time in their 11-and-half-month intense season to sit down and learn a bit more about their story and sport.
Ski Utah Q: Gentleman, how did you guys find yourself living in Utah?
Bryan Fletcher (4 years older): I transplanted to Utah in 2006 from Steamboat, CO. It was the first year I was named to the World Championship team and have been hooked on the sport and the area ever since. Utah is the perfect place to train, compete, and enjoy downtime in the off-season.
Taylor Fletcher: I’m four years younger than my brother and have always been chasing him, well not so much on the track anymore ha-ha, but in 2009 I was named to the National Team and I haven’t left Utah since.
*USSA is headquartered in Park City, Utah.
Ski Utah Q: Nordic Combined is an interesting sport. If someone doesn’t know what it is – it can be a bit confusing. In your own words can you describe the sport?
BF – That is a very valid question and the best way to describe the sport is it is a combination of two polar opposite sports - ski jumping and cross-country racing. The reason it is called Nordic Combined is because both sports have a free heal. In competition, each athlete jumps first. You get one practice jump and one competition jump. The longest jump gets to start the cross-country portion of the event first and athletes are segmented out based on the distance of their jump. Then the overall winner of the competition is the first person to cross the finish line of a 10K cross-country race.
Ski Utah Q: What makes the sport competitive?
TF – A fascinating part about Nordic Combined is you never know who is going to win. A guy may jump way ahead of everybody but if he is not a strong cross-country skier he will fall way back.
Ski Utah Q: As you said it is two completely different sports in one. Which aspect of Nordic Combined, do you focus on more?
BF – Ha-ha. That is a tough question. It absolutely is trying to find that balance of improving both sides of the sport without drastically dropping one or the other. When we do plyometric (jump training) we take away from the endurance side and when we start doing endurance training we take away from the jumping. This makes the sport pretty unique, because not often do you see athletes, trying to be the top in 2 sports at the same time.
Ski Utah Q: What is your favorite part of the sport?
TF – The thrill of flying through the air is what got me hook.
Ski Utah Q: It sounds like the draw is in the jump?
BF - Absolutely, the jump was the draw for me. But a lot of kids start with cross-country. But that makes Nordic combined so unique is that it takes someone who likes endurance sports but is a bit of a thrill seeker. There are draws on both sides.
Ski Utah Q: How does one get involved in Nordic Combined?
BF - There are jumps all over the country and probably a jump within a couple hours of where you live and you don’t even know it. You can send an email to www.usanordic.org and they will help direct you to the nearest facility. Or if you are a local to Utah, go up to the Utah Olympic Park, sign up and try the sport during the summer or winter. It is totally a niche and not the first thing that comes to mind for most people but we would ABSOLUTELY recommend it.
Ski Utah Q: What is your proudest achievement thus far?
BF – Winning the King’s Cup in 2012. The King’s Cup is the longest-running Nordic Combined event in the World, and winning that solidified my legacy and contribution to the sport. Also, I had the privilege of meeting the King of Norway after winning, which was cool.
TF – Winning a bronze medal at World Championship in 2013. It was a huge stepping-stone for our careers as well as incredibly special. Not often can you stand on a podium with your brother. Then in 2014 we both made the Olympic Team. Being able to walk through the opening ceremonies was special but also to stand next to him (Bryan) made it that much better.
Ski Utah Q: What has impacted you the most in your career?
TF – I would have to say, my big brother Bryan has been extremely influential in my career. When he was young going through Leukemia treatments but still pursuing his passions with great success, I wanted to be following him, which is what I did. Pretty much when I was young, I chased him around trying to beat him at everything and in return he pushed me to be where I am today. We compete, train and travel together. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.
Ski Utah Q: What is your biggest fear?
BF – Spiders! You never know what they are going to do. Spiders are not very sweet.
TF – Heights! The hardest part of my job is climbing up the tower to start the jump.
Ski Utah Q: One of the greatest partnerships USSA has is with Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah. Can you help explain why?
BF – Once I made the National Team, I put college on hold. Our sport is time-consuming and demanding if you want to break through to that elite level. When I moved to Utah, I realized that the top of the sport was a long ways off and put all my efforts into training. But two years later, in 2008, I started taking classes at Westminster College through the USSA partnership. I have been taking a class or two on average a year. Ha ha. Chipping away at the college education. But in all honesty, it has helped me improve my sport. Westminster College gives me a release from skiing and helps me stay mentally refreshed and a bit sharper.
Ski Utah Q: What is the most important thing you have learned at Westminster College?
TF – Time Management has been really huge. Being able to realize that I can do 4 hours of homework now then go back to training, and then finish my homework later has been a huge learning curve and something I have been able to apply to everything else in my life. Being able to multitask is crucial to my success and I credit Westminster College for that.
Ski Utah Q: What would you tell other athletes about pursuing education?
BF - I think it is important because it keeps you mentally focused on other things and you will not be surprised at how much you learn on the academic side that can be applied outside of the classroom.
Ski Utah Q: What does your training consist of?
TF – First off, our training never really ends. We get two full weeks off a year. So during that time we compete and train for two different sports. One is endurance and on low weeks we do about 5 hours on the bike, running, roller skiing or even on skis and on high weeks we do about 30 hours. The second portion is the jumping and spends three days a week year round up at the Utah Olympic Park and the other two days a week in the gym working on strength. The tough part of the job is finding that happy medium.
Ski Utah Q: Since you don’t have an off-season, I am not going to ask what you do then – but maybe you can tell us what you do for fun?
TF – Our sport takes up about 90 percent of our time. Ha-ha - But we always love to go skiing. That is our fun/training method. We ski at Park City a lot and the Cottonwood Resorts whenever we can. If it is a good groomer day, we will do laps at the Park City but when the conditions are right we love to get into the backcountry. We are they guys that tend to work more for our turns. We will skin up for 2.5 hours and then take a couple runs.
Ski Utah Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
BF - In October I launched a new charity I co-founded called ccThrive. The organization as the name states is aimed at getting kids to thrive after childhood cancer. There is a huge need for this in the cancer community. Our organization is the only all-encompassing organization to address the transition from a patient on treatment to a survivor and beyond. We have three main objectives in the organization, they are to raise awareness, provide guidance, and limit financial restrictions children may face post treatment. We will be accomplishing these objectives through three programs; our ccThriver ambassador program, our mentor program, and a grant program. So in addition, to skiing, I have been hard at work with the new organization. We are in our early stages and so every dollar we bring in helps us out tremendously. You can check out our website at www.ccthrive.org our twitter is @ccthrive and our facebook is www.facebook.com/ccthrivenow
Ski Utah Q: If we want to stay up-to-date on your successes this season – where should we go?
Click here to view the dates for each comp as well as the location. The order of those locations are: Klingenthal, Germany, Shonach, Germany, Chaux-Neuve, France, Seefeld, Austria, Oslo, Norway, Trondheim, Norway, Lahti, Finland, Kuopio, Finland, Val di Fiemme, Italy.
Follow Bryan and Taylor on social media: