Tough start to season for US Nordic Combined team

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U.S. Ski Team

Bill Demong

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Taylor Flet­cher

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U.S. Ski Team

Bryan Fletcher

U.S. Ski Team staff report

KUUSAMO, Finland

Billy Demong moved up 13 places in the cross-country ski portion of Friday’s first World Cup competition of the season for the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team. But it was perhaps the only bright spot of the day for the Americans competing in Kuusamo, Finland.

Demong’s cross-county efforts propelled him from 45th place after the jumping event to 32nd overall. Fellow Olympian Jason Lamy-Chappuis, of France, dominated the day, leading the jump and taking the win.

It was a day of some massive jumps. Lamy-Chap­­puis led with a jump of 137 meters, taking the lead on style points. Aust­ria’s Eric Frenzel went an astounding 148.5 meters. De­­mong was well off the mark at 105 meters.

In the quick turnaround 10K cross-country ski, Lamy-Chappuis started two seconds ahead of Frenzel. The two battled the entire distance, with Lamy-Chappuis holding on for a 6.6-second victory. Austria’s Mario Stecher took third while teammate Felix Gottwald moved all the way from 21st to fourth.

Steamboat’s Bryan Fletcher led the U.S. in jumping, finishing 35th. Demong carried a whopping four-minute, seven-second deficit into the cross-country ski and could do little but find solace in picking off skier after skier to move up 13 spots.

Finland’s Hannu Manninen was even further back in 48th, but caught Demong with the second fastest cross-country time. Demong was 12th fastest.

Steamboat’s Taylor Fletcher finished the event 35th overall, and his brother Bryan was 37th.

“It is hard not to be upset, but in reality, we are here with a new group of guys competing full time on the World Cup,” U.S. head coach Dave Jarrett said. “It is going to take some time to build them up to 2014. The new group is ahead of Billy (Demong) and Johnny (Spillane)’s curve for their age and need to be mixing it up on the World Cup more often. If they (Bryan and Taylor Fletcher) can consistently be in the points, working their way up, we will be satisfied.”

Action continues today in the Finnish resort at the gateway to Lapland just south of the Arctic Circle.

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