Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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There is no shortage of reasons to root for Bryan Fletcher.
He’s a local Nordic combined skier who has beaten cancer, is on the cusp of earning staying power on the World Cup A circuit and, most of all, seems like a guy that gets it.
Explaining “it” can be tough. But when you talk to Fletcher, he’s got things in line and knows what really matters.
Talking to him last week, it was hard to imagine that he won’t have a phenomenal year of World Cup competitions this year.
Fletcher, along with his brother Taylor, will ski the first portion of the World Cup A circuit with Billy Demong and Brett Camerota.
Johnny Spillane still is recovering from an injury and Todd Lodwick is staying in the states to be with family while competing in the Continental Cups.
Bryan Fletcher, for the most part, has had to deal with one setback after another. There’s the cancer, for which he underwent a year of chemotherapy before it went into remission.
He began the 2009 ski season with solid showings and results. As the buildup to the 2010 Olympics began, Spillane, Demong and Lodwick had assured their spots on the team. The question became who would fill the other two spots.
Fletcher was looking like one of those guys, but then he started to struggle. An injury before the Olympics derailed his chance for a spot.
But with his brother on the team, Fletcher still made the trip and supported the team like he was competing.
Now, with the 2011 World Championships scheduled for late February in Oslo, Norway, Fletcher finds himself in a similar position.
He scored points in all of the summer Grand Prix events and says at no time in his skiing career has he ever felt better.
He said leading up to the 2010 Olympics, he was his own worst enemy. He allowed bad thoughts to enter his head before competitions and that would translate to poor results.
“Once that happens and things start falling apart it’s easy to lose the focus and where you want to go,” he said.
But Fletcher spent the summer working on the mental side of skiing. The disappointment of not making the Olympic team started to slip away. He said it took almost a full season to get his head back into skiing.
Part of that was changing his body. He lost about 20 pounds this summer to get closer to a weight where he’ll be more effective jumping. He said he would like to lose a little bit more before the season begins.
He said with the weight loss and newfound confidence in his mental ability, he’s expecting a big season.
He’ll get his chance when the season opens Nov. 26 and 27 in Kuusomo, Finland.
“It really has been a night-and-day difference,” he said. “Last year, I wasn’t having a good year in cross-country. It was the heaviest I’ve been. It was hard carrying that weight around and not doing well. This year, though, I’m setting my sights higher.”
— To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229 or e-mail email@example.com