Two brothers, one dream

Steamboat siblings selected for world championship Nordic squads

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Brothers Bryan Fletcher, left, and Taylor Fletcher recently learned they're headed to world championship events to represent the United States in Nordic combined.

— Penny Fletcher wishes her two sons would find some time to clean their rooms. But she's not too upset about what's keeping them busy - especially considering the news Bryan and Taylor received during the past week.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Ski Team named Taylor, 16, one of its four Nordic combined athletes to compete at the Nordic Junior World Championships in Tarvisio, Italy.

On Monday word came that team officials named Bryan, 20, as one of five U.S. Nordic combined team athletes to compete at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships from Feb. 22 to March 4 in Sapporo, Japan.

Taylor's Italian competition was scheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, but the event recently was postponed until March 12 because of a lack of snow.

"That bummed me out," Taylor said. "Things were getting better each day. My jumps were getting better, I think, knowing Junior Worlds were right around the corner."

Taylor knew he was a shoo-in for the event after he "got second at the first qualifier and first at the second (qualifier)." His respective top finishes in Lake Placid, N.Y., and Calgary, Alberta, earned Taylor the top qualifying spot on the team behind Salt Lake City's Skyler Keate.

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Nordic program director Todd Wilson said he expected Taylor to make the cut, "but to qualify No. 1 was icing on the cake."

Wilson also believes Taylor possesses two qualities that helped him break through to the higher level and should continue to help him improve until the March competition - maturity and consistency.

"He's the most consistent athlete we have at that level - training year-round and being committed to the sport," Wilson said. "It's a road map for success."

Bryan also has stuck to that same map, although he's had a significant detour to navigate.

A dual knee surgery in 2003 sidelined Bryan, who since that operation has worked to regain the shape he had as a 16-year-old forejumper at the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Now Bryan says he's finally "back into rhythm," and it's shown. In his first year competing for the U.S. team, Bryan scored in each of his World Cup B races during the first period of the season, highlighted by a 16th-place finish Dec. 15 in Soldier Hollow, Utah.

"I'm psyched to step it up," Bryan said about the opportunity to train and compete with the team. "I'm using the best opportunities provided for me and working to be the best I can. This year's been good. It shows I can step up - and I know I can do better."

Bryan's drive rubs off on his brother.

"It's awesome to see him (qualify) in his first year skiing with the team," Taylor said. "It gives me inspiration to follow him and maybe get there in a couple years."

With three Junior World Championships under his belt, Bryan could offer Taylor some advice on concentration before the pair practiced at Howelsen Hill last week. Before they depart from the same Steamboat house to separate ends of the globe for their respective championships, the talented siblings were preparing to face off for a little competition, Saturday at the Larry Johnson Memorial.

But any kind of rivalry between the two ends when they climb the jumps.

"We fight occasionally around the house," Taylor said. "Never in competitions - we're always trying to help one another out."

Bryan joins Steamboat skiers Johnny Spillane and Bill Demong along with Eric and Brett Camerota on the U.S. Nordic combined world championship team.

- To reach Dave Shively, call 871-4253

or e-mail dshively@steamboatpilot.com

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