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Another Win for Watabe; Taylor Fletcher Just Outside Top 10 in Falun; Team Event Canceled

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Japan’s veteran nordic-combined skier Akito Watabe won Saturday’s normal hill/10 k, the last individual World Cup competition of the season in Falun, Sweden.

Watabe, who started competing in the sport at age 12, had a breakthrough season in 2011 finishing second in the overall World Cup rankings. Watabe’s veteran status can be recognized by his seven Olympic starts (which include one Olympic medal).  Saturday he won in 22:07.5.

Just over five seconds later was Norway’s Jørgen Graabak in second. And in third was Italy’s Alessandro Pittin, who finished 6.8 seconds after Watabe.

Taylor Fletcher led the Americans in 11th, finishing exactly one minute behind the winner. He improved from 24th in the jump with the 12th-fastest ski time. Graabak was the fastest on the day, moving up from 21st to second, and Watabe went from second in the jump to the victory with the fourth-fastest ski time.

Taylor Fletcher’s older brother, Bryan Fletcher, who was diagnosed with Leukemia at the age of three, was the only North American to compete for the day. Bryan Fletcher placed 28th  (+1:46:5), improving from 44th in the jump.

The Steamboat, Colorado-based brothers “have a very unique relationship” according to Taylor Fletcher’s FIS profile. “We are both driven athletes and at times can be the best of friends but in competition we are individual athletes,” Fletcher writes. “We are a team and will remain that way for the rest of our lives. I have his back and he has mine.”

The final team event in Falun was canceled Sunday because of too much wind.

Saturday: Results

Windy conditions in Falun, Sweden, canceled Sunday's Nordic Combined World Cup team event, the last of the season.

Windy conditions in Falun, Sweden, canceled Sunday’s Nordic Combined World Cup team event, the last of the season.

Rydzek Jumps to the Top of the Podium in Oslo World Cup; Fletcher Top U.S. Finisher

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Germany’s Johannes Rydzek demonstrated his all-around strength in Saturday’s World Cup in Oslo, Norway, combining the second-best jump of the day with the sixth-best ski to arrive at the top of the podium in a time of 24:50.6. Norway’s Magnus Moan started 36 seconds back following a 12th-ranked jump, then blazed the 10-kilometer course in a second-best 24:15.2, but lost a photo finish to Rydzek, finishing just 0.6 seconds back. France’s Francois Braud finished third (+4.5), and Finland’s Iikka Herola was fourth (+10.0).

Taylor Fletcher was the top American, finishing 22nd (+1:42.6), followed by Billy Demong in 26th (+1:46.5), Bryan Fletcher in 36th (+2:43.7) and Nick Hendrickson in 47th (+5:13.8).

Results

Demong 10th in Trondheim World Cup, Fletcher Fastest in XC

Friday, March 7th, 2014

It was a nice day in Trondheim on Thursday.

“Sunny and warm and spring-like on the beautiful fjord” is how U.S. Ski Team member Bill Demong described it. But beautiful doesn’t always make for good skiing, though Demong complimented the race organizers on spending months “farming” and salting a 2-kilometer loop to use for the World Cup 10 k Nordic Combined event, creating a hard and fast course.

The veteran Demong charged from behind to finish 10th after jumping into 20th, he put down the fourth fastest cross country time of the day to move up ten spots. Teammate Taylor Fletcher posted the fastest time of the day, skiing 24:20.4 on the 10 k course, to finish 23rd after a 47th ranked jump, while Johannes Rydzek of Germany took the victory ahead of Norwegians Joergen Graabak and Magnus Moan.

“The course itself was very challenging right on the limit for climb in a 10km race with some hard corners and tough transitions,” Demong wrote in an email. Demong was satisfied with his jump, feeling that he has jumped consistently all season.

Demong finished 19.1 seconds behind Rydzek and less than nine seconds out of the top-5.

Bryan Fletcher (USA) did not start.

The athletes head to another individual 10k Gundersen World Cup on the legendary Holmenkollen hill in Oslo on Saturday.

Results

 

Frenzel Completes Seefeld Triple Sweep; Bryan Fletcher Fifth

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

On the final day of competition at the first-ever Nordic Combined World Cup Triple in Seefeld, Austria, Eric Frenzel of Germany ended on the absolute highest note — winning his third-straight competition in as many days over the weekend for a €30,000-Euro ($40,600-dollar) grand prize.

Second after two competition jumps on Sunday, Frenzel started second in the cumulative pursuit-style 15-kilometer race later in the afternoon and quickly made up 10 seconds on Norway’s Haavard Klemetsen. Frenzel ended up winning in 38:26.2 minutes, 21.2 seconds ahead of  Klemetsen in second. Another Norwegian, Magnus Moan finished 29.1 back in third (+29.1).

Sunday’s runner-up Johannes Rydzek of Germany placed fourth  (+39.3) and American Bryan Fletcher improved from sixth on Friday and Saturday to fifth overall (+47.6).

Frenzel earned double World Cup points for the Triple crown, extending his lead in the World Cup standings over France’s Jason Lamy-Chappuis, who finished ninth on Sunday (+1:41.0).

Billy Demong of the U.S. placed 11th overall (+1:54.7), up from 12th on Saturday. After jumping to 22nd, he skied the third-fastest 15 k ((behind Norway’s Mikko Kokslien (seventh) and Italy’s Alessandro Pittin (10th), respectively)).

Results

Frenzel Stays Ahead in Seefeld Triple, Germany Goes 1-2 on Day 2

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

After launching himself to the lead at the first-ever Nordic Combined Triple at the World Cup in Seefeld, Austria, Germany’s Eric Frenzel followed up on Friday’s prologue victory with another win on Saturday, beating the field by 26.4 seconds in the 10-kilometer Gundersen in 24.49.9.

The overall World Cup leader, Frenzel jumped to first then skied the 19th fastest time to come out on top with one final day of competition remaining. Germany took the top two with Johannes Rydzek in second, and Norway’s Magnus Moan rose from fourth to third, 27.6 seconds behind Frenzel.

“It was anything but relaxing, but a really tough race,” Frenzel told Sportschau, according to a translation. ”Magnus very quickly become very caught up, so I did not expect. I knew that I can still put it back.”

Rydzek passed Moan at the last second before the finish.

“I tried to save … and I am sure been a little a**hole but I was able to fully pass through to the finish line,” Rydzek told Sportschau.

Norway’s Haavard Klemetsen placed fourth (+48.1), after jumping to second and skiing the 32nd-ranked time of 50 in the 10 k. Jason Lamy Chappuis of France rose from 10th to fifth (+56.5), and American Bryan Fletcher repeated his sixth-place season best from Friday, finishing 57.4 back on Saturday.

Eighth on Friday, Billy Demong of the U.S. placed 12th, skiing up from 20th in the jump with the eighth-fastest 10 k time. Norway’s Joergen Graabak improved from 42nd to 20th with the fastest ski time, and another Norwegian Mikko Kokslien skied the second-fastest time to end up 11th.

The three-day competition wraps up Sunday with two jumps and a 15 k pursuit-style race, which is handicapped by the first two day’s cumulative time back.

Results

Day 1 video

Frenzel Wins Seefeld Triple Opener; Bryan Fletcher and Demong Nab Season Bests

Friday, January 17th, 2014

On the opening day of the inaugural Nordic Combined Triple — a series of three competitions in three days in Seefeld, Austria — the overall World Cup leader, Germany’s Eric Frenzel came out with a fire in Friday’s shorter-than-usual comp, winning the 5-kilometer prologue in 12:37.4.

Second-best in the jump after Norway’s Haavard Klemetsten, the 25-year-old Frenzel raced to the victory, beating another Norwegian, Magnus Moan, by 8.4 seconds. Moan skied up from 12th to second overall with the fastest 5 k time, and another German, Tino Edelmann, held his position in third (+9.4) after ranking third in the jump.

“It’s been a good day,” Frenzel told the Associated Press. “My jump went well and I skied my own race. I lost some time [to Moan] but I am really pleased with this victory.”

Frenzel extended his lead in the World Cup standings by 127 points over Jason Lamy Chappuis of France, who finished ninth on Friday.

Klemetsen ended up fourth (+11.7) after his cross-country leg ranked 48th of 68 competitors. Germany’s Johannes Rydzek was fifth (+12.0), and Bryan Fletcher led the Americans with a season-best sixth (+25.2). Fletcher jumped to 11th, then skied the 16th-fastest time.

Japan’s Akito Watabe jumped to 14th and skied the 14th-fastest time to place seventh (+26.0), and Billy Demong of the U.S. notched eighth (+27.0), his best individual result of the season, after jumping 17th and skiing the 12th-fastest time. He edged Chappuis by 0.7 seconds, and Ilkka Herola of Finland placed 10th (+30.9).

The Triple continues Saturday with an individual Gundersen competition, narrowed down to the top 50 from Friday, followed by two jumps and a 15 k on Sunday.

Taylor Fletcher (USA) placed 56th on Friday after jumping to 64th and posting the fifth-fastest prologue time. Another American Brett Denney was 63rd and Canadian Wesley Savill finished 68th.

Results

U.S. NoCo Seefeld prep video

Demong 13th in Chaux Neuve World Cup

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

American Billy Demong, back in Europe, and racing on the World Cup, placed 13th in the Chaux Neuve, France.

Demong jumped to a 35th place start position and then proceeded to turn in the 7th fastest ski time of the day to climb through the rankings.

He came in at the head of a chase pack of seven skiers, 1:17.4 behind winner Miko Kokslien of Norway.

The Norwegians swept the podium with Magnus Krog and Jørgen Graabak rounding out the top-3. Teammate Magnus Moan was 5th.

“Today was a decent day,” Demong said in a USSA press release. “Tough conditions on the hill with changing wind and I was a little disappointed with the jump especially after the good provisional yesterday, but the conditions on the course were some of my favorite: deep slushy snow and a hard track. So I really went out and tried to ski a well-paced race and was pretty excited that I felt as good as I did at the end, able to dig deep and push hard to the line!”

Bryan Fletcher, the only other American to race, finished 28th after a 38th place jump.

Racing continues on Sunday in France with a team sprint competition.

Results

Taylor Fletcher Overcomes Ho-Hum Jump with Spectacular Skiing for 6th, Twice, at Chaikovski

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

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

‘Bittersweet’ Weekend for Bryan Fletcher at Schonach World Cup (Updated)

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

A weekend of World Cup competition in Schonach, Germany, yielded good results for American Bryan Fletcher, especially on Sunday as he rose from 26th to ninth in the individual normal hill/10 k.

Saturday’s individual competition was dominated by Norwegians, with Magnus Moan taking first place in 24:58.5 and Haavard Klemetsen taking second 4.3 second later. On Sunday, France’s Jason Lamy Chappuis narrowly won in 23:47.1 and Germany’s Johannes Rydzek was just 0.7 seconds behind in second. Japan’s Akito Watabe showed remarkable consistency, getting third place both days, each time less than 1 second behind second place.

On Saturday, Fletcher was the lone American to qualify for the competition. He ranked 31st in the jump, then went on to ski up to 18th, 1:07.8 out of first, which he described as “bittersweet” after crashing in the race. On Sunday, he jumped to 26th in the provisional round which ended up being used to seed the cross-country race (after the competition jump was canceled).

“Todays conditions were tough,” Fletcher explained in an email. “Really strong winds, rain, warm weather all accounted for the cancellation of the jumping.”

With a “decent jump” putting him in fighting position, he was OK with the call.

“I was just excited to race,” he added. “I was really striving for a top 10 today.”

Fletcher started 58 seconds behind Klemetsen, who led after the jump, and went on to ski the third-fastest 10 k for ninth overall, 14.1 seconds behind Lamy Chappuis.

“I was in the hunt until the last hill and just couldn’t jockey for position in time,” Fletcher wrote. “I had some strategy going into the race to work with some other guys, however after the first lap the plan had not worked out. I was out alone and unfortunately had to spend a lot of energy on my own to catch the front group. But once I made contact I did my best to recover and try and gain spots on the hill, which was about the only place wide enough to ski two wide.”

Rounding out U.S. Nordic Combined’s results on Sunday were Taylor Fletcher in 31st place (+1:38.8), Todd Lodwick in 44th (+2:22), and Brett Denney in 51st (+2:59.7).
In Saturday’s race, Bryan wrote that he got tangled up with another skier and fell, yet skied the 11th-fastest time.
“I got up and still managed to get back to 14th place but was out printed by the group I was leading at the line landing me in 18th,” he wrote. “I also found out shortly after the race I had skied the entire fourth lap on a broken ski and I am sure that accounted for a bit of the fatigue. So despite the unfortunate luck I would say it went well for as bad as it went. … I am happy about this weekend, mostly happy to end on a top 10 just in time to head home for the holidays and Gold Cup on the 28th.”

Results: Saturday | Sunday

Comeback Kid: Fletcher Goes from 30th to Seventh, Demong Notches Ninth for U.S.

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

Eric Frenzel of Germany jumped third and raced to first on Sunday for his third World Cup win this season, taking the 10 k individual Gundersen title by 5.3 seconds in 21:52.4. But he only started 8 seconds behind the leader.

Not taking anything away from Frenzel, the current World Cup overall leader, or Norway’s Haavard Klemetsen, who led the jump then finished second. But there were guys like Norwegian Mikko Kokslein that rose from the depths — 32nd in the jump to third overall — that really impressed in Sunday in Ramsau am Dachstein, Austria.

Kokslein posted the fastest 10 k in 20:45.0 to finish just 0.3 seconds out of second. Norway’s Magnus Krog placed fourth (+6.3) after starting 13th, Japan’s Akito Watabe jumped to eighth and finish fifth (+7.1), and Germany’s Fabian Riessle started 29th to place sixth (+7.6) with the third-fastest time.

Then there was Bryan Fletcher, who teamed up with Todd Lodwick on Saturday to bring the U.S. from 14th to a historic fourth in the team sprint. Fletcher’s jump ranked 30th out of 47 on Sunday, and the 27-year-old Colorado native skied up to seventh with the second-fastest time, 8.3 seconds behind Kokslein. After starting a minute and 9 seconds behind Klemetsen, Fletcher ended up just 9.9 seconds behind Frenzel as the winner and 4.3 seconds off the podium.

“Jumping was not my strongest today but I was in the hunt and thats the only thing that matters,” Fletcher wrote in an email. “I know I can improve and I am looking forward to more chances and opportunities to improve next week in [Schonach, Germany].
“I was surprised to see 2nd fastest time on the results sheet,” he added. “I was just focused on skiing my race and trying not to get caught up in any of the pack scrambles.”

In his first race of the weekend, Billy Demong posted the 16th-best jump and eighth-fastest time to tally ninth (+10.6), his best individual result of the season. He was four-tenths of a second behind Austria’s Lukas Klapfer in eighth.

“I’ve been really focused on jumping this summer and really laid a solid foundation and built into good form which unfortunately did not translate right away in competition,” Demong wrote in an email. “But I am starting to feel really good on the hill now and also feel room for improvement.

“I thought I could be maybe make the podium and I really felt that I skied a well paced and executed race but when 15 guys hit the final climb together I chose a bad line and got caught up at one pony coming to a stop,” he explained. “I’m happy though I had good energy throughout the race and pushed over the top of all the climbs really hard.”

Lodwick placed 33rd (+1:22.8) after starting 40th and skiing the 26th-fastest time.

“All in all I think that we are showing that we are coming into form and that 3 top tens and near podiums with pretty average performance gives us confidence of good things to come!” Demong wrote.

Results