Season 2013 has started a bit lackluster for me but on a whole we have, as a team, produced some good results by some new guys. The Fletcher Brothers have proven to be a force and Bryan leads our team in ski jumping while younger brother Taylor is the fastest Nordic Combined skier on the circuit! Together they are our two top ranked skiers and continue to impress.
After suffering from whooping cough (yes whooping cough! Like cough til you gag, whooping cough.) for over a month I’ve started finding form on the cross country tracks again and the jumping portion continues to be my achilles. Recently I’ve taken some pretty good jumps but the day to day reality is that I need to bring up my level. I’m home now to try and do that.
After ringing in the New Year on a plane from SLC to Paris our team headed to Schonach, Germany for the historic Schwarzwald Pokal. While Schonach has historically been a good place for me I failed to qualify in the individual event ski jumping provisional round. On Sunday we had a Team relay and I was back on the start list. Jumping for the team is a different feeling, instead of trying to qualify for my own I felt the pressure of making it happen for my boys. That day I produced my best jump of the season and helped land the team with Bryan, Taylor and Todd in 6th place a mere 30 seconds behind the podium.
Heading into the race we knew we had a chance and as the cross country track was reduced to boot deep slush we started licking our chops as those tough conditions have always favored us. We sent Bryan out first followed by Taylor, a tactic designed to allow Taylor to try and bridge as much of the gap as possible. Taylor delivered tagging Todd in 5th together with 4th place France. Todd skied a smart race and left France’s maxime Laheurte behind giving us a crucial gap over France and behind Austria in 3rd by only a few seconds. As I was tagged any plan to start a bit easy went out the window and I put my head down catching Bernard Gruber quickly as we left the stadium and pouring on the gas to make Jason Lamy Chappuis pay as he tried to close from behind. After several kms of hard skiing I felt Jason fade behind and Gruber breathing hard and I knew it was time to attack. If left it to a sprint both of them could best me and my insurance was to go hard enough, early enough to make it clear. I started with over a km to go and went into a pain so deep I thought I might fall over but the sound of Gruber falling behind was motivation to keep going. Finally crossing the finish line I fell over harder than I ever have before and was greeted by my team exhuberant over the first Team USA Relay podium in a World Cup and the first since the games in Vancouver! It was a huge day because although we did well we also knew we could have done even better. A confidence boost for the whole squad as we start preperations for the World Champonships in Italy.
Last weekend in Chaux Neuve, France Taylor again showed his strength by skiing the fastest time and moving through the field from 35th to 10th in the cross country portion. On sunday we a Team Sprint event and the Fletchers Teamed up against myself and Johnny Spillane. We skied most of the race together and in the end Taylor skied an amazing final km to land Team Fletcher in 7th out of 20 teams. Not the best results we’ve ever had but solid stuff and something to build on. My feeling is that we are closer than we even know.
A picture from the Team Sprint in Chaux Neuve courtesy of Jessica Walker