If you can ski fast enough to overcome almost any deficit on skis, who needs jumping? Not U.S. Ski Team member Taylor Fletcher, as he demonstrated in the World Cup competition this weekend in Chaikovski, Russia. His jump score put him in 49th place with a 3:05 deficit on Saturday and 43rd place with a 2:15 deficit on Sunday.
Not to be deterred, Fletcher turned on the afterburners and skied the fastest time of the day by 38 seconds on Saturday, passing 43 people to finish in sixth place overall, 35.4 seconds behind overall winner Tim Hug of Switzerland (27:44.9). On Sunday he matched that performance, again turning in the fastest ski time on the 10-kilometer course, to place 6th again, finishing 40.9 seconds behind winner Wilhelm Denifl of Austria (26:11.0).
“I knew it was possible to move up a fair amount because the course was a great match for my skiing,” Fletcher said regarding Saturday’s results. “I went out super strong because …I wanted to get through [a lot of other racers] so I had open trails ahead.”
Fletcher was not sure, at first, that his apparent success was real.
“I was concerned because I made so much time up so quickly and I thought I was going to crash hard but I just kept going.”
But it was real. He said he was surprised by how much faster than the rest of the field he was.
“There were some strong skiers here that I never thought I would catch,” he said.
“It just goes to show that it is not over after jumping” Head Coach Dave Jarrett said in a USSA press release.
Still, with so much room for improvement in his jumping, Fletcher is eager to see what he can do. With two more World Cups coming up January 11-12 in Chaux Neuve, France and January 17-19 in Seefeld, Austria, Fletcher knows the podium is within reach.
“I feel better with these results. I know I still have a lot of work to do, but I will get it. Jumping is getting better and I feel confident going into the next couple weeks.”
As for the Olympics? First things first, Fletcher says.
“I have two more weekends of World Cup that I am really looking forward to. Last year I really got into a good zone and I look forward to doing that again. [Then I] will go home and rest and prepare for the goal of the winter.”
This weekend’s results put Taylor in 20th place overall in the World Cup standings. Top 50 is needed to qualify for the Sochi Olympics. In the US rankings, Fletcher is led only by his brother, Bryan Fletcher, who is ranked 17th. Rounding out North Americans also in the World Cup standings are Bill Demong, 37th, and Todd Lodwick, 50th.
Complete results: Saturday | Sunday