Fletcher opens bid for World Juniors

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Nordic combined skier Taylor Fletcher rang in a new year last week in Lake Placid, N.Y., with a third-place finish at a qualifier for the 2007 FIS Nordic World Junior Championships.

"I'm very happy for Taylor," Todd Wilson said. Wilson is the Nordic director for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

Fletcher jumped to fourth place in the event and then posted the fifth-fastest cross-country time to finish third overall.

It was a good start, but Wilson said the Steamboat skier will need to post strong finishes at the final qualifying events this weekend in Calgary, Alberta, if he hopes to make this year's world junior team.

"He maybe could have jumped a little better, but it was a good race for him," Wilson said of Fletcher's performance. "With one or two more good showings he should be able to secure a spot."

Vermont skier Willy Graves led the jumping and then dominated the cross-country race en route to winning the Nordic combined event by 2 minutes, 42 seconds. Lake Placid skier Pete Freire finished second, beating Fletcher to the finish line by 12 seconds.

The Lake Placid New Year's Tournament, was a qualifier for the 2007 FIS Nordic World Junior Championships that are scheduled for Tarvisio, Italy, Jan. 30 through Feb. 5. The Nordic combined portions of those events will include a two-jump, 5-kilometer individual Gundersen race Jan. 29. There will be a team event Jan. 30 and a sprint event Jan. 31.

Wilson expects four athletes to be named to the American junior team and possibly one alternate. Athletes hoping to make that team need to be ranked in the top four after four qualifying events, two of which took place in Lake Placid last weekend.

Wilson said Winter Sports Club coach Martin Bayer is on the road to Canada with a Steamboat contingent that includes Fletcher, Sam Chovan and Brett Denney.

Chovan was eighth in last weekend's event and Denney had to drop out after the jumping portion due to illness.

"I don't think that the results in Lake Placid were totally unexpected," Wilson said.

He said Fletcher was skiing well before he left, and that Denney has been ill, which has impacted his performance on the cross-country course.

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