Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.
Find more columns by Joel here.
Steamboat Springs Penny Fletcher was afraid she scared the dog.
She may have woken the neighborhood, and she dang sure woke up anyone who dared pick up her phone call last weekend in the early morning hours of March 10.
There was little to do but shout with all she had, though.
With her usual Internet feed of European televised sports inexplicably on the fritz, she was left to watch and wait for results to upload to the FIS website for the final Nordic combined World Cup event of the season, the King’s Cup in Oslo, Norway. It might as well have been 1860 and a bunch of dots and dashes as slow as things seemed to move that Saturday morning. Through pauses and changes in the scores and times, the brilliant news slowly emerged: Her son Bryan Fletcher had won the biggest event of his life, his first World Cup.
“I was watching the splits come up and just screaming,” she said. “Bryan wasn’t falling behind. I thought, ‘Oh, please! You have the strength to pull this out!’ Sure enough, he did.”
It should come as little surprise that life as a World Cup skier is one of early mornings and long days.
It’s not much easier on parents, even when those children have left the house or even the continent.
Bryan Fletcher and younger brother Taylor Fletcher skied to outstanding seasons on the World Cup. Winter may mean vacation for many who come through Steamboat Springs. But for those who have loved ones competing to realize lifelong dreams overseas, it’s a season of baggy eyes and stiff cups of coffee.
“I stay awake Friday, Saturday and Sunday all winter long,” Penny Fletcher said. “That morning, I woke up at 2 a.m.”
It was the same story around town.
Bryan Fletcher’s father, Tim Fletcher, also was up long before the sun and stymied by the same Internet frustrations. Eventually, he had to leave for work at Howelsen Hill, where he is a ski patroller. He couldn’t stop wondering how the race was going, though, and he had little trouble finding others of a like mind at the downtown Steamboat Springs complex.
Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club coach Todd Wilson said he still can remember Bryan Fletcher as a confident, at times goofy young skier, and he and fellow longtime Winter Sports Club Nordic combined coach Gary Crawford crowded around a computer at Howelsen’s Olympian Hall, devouring every morsel of information.
At one point, the site showed Fletcher as the winner, but even then, the celebration had to wait. American Billy Demong had been involved in a photo finish just behind the race leaders, and Steamboat was left to hold its breath while it was sorted out.
Finally, however, it was official. Crawford, Wilson and Tim Fletcher celebrated at Howelsen Hill. Penny Fletcher freaked out her dog, and soon, Steamboat woke up to news of its newest winter sports hero.
“I’m extremely proud,” Tim Fletcher said. “I’m a real lucky dad to have two kids … who are traveling the world, getting to see the world and beating the world.”
Now that’s worth staying up for.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com