17 furious days to the Olympic team: Analyzing Steamboat’s contenders | SteamboatToday.com

17 furious days to the Olympic team: Analyzing Steamboat’s contenders

The U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team athletes await the start of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials event last week in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Steven Kornreich)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The second half of the qualifying events for those athletes hoping to make the U.S. Olympic Team kick off this weekend starting an intense 17-day charge to earn that ticket to the Olympics. More than 30 Steamboat Springs athletes started the winter with hopes of making the team and most still have at least some chance.

Through the next five days, we'll review the contenders and analyze their chances, checking in on where they sit now and what they need to do if they're to make the trip for the 2018 Winter Olympics, which start Feb. 9 in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Today: Nordic combined.

Bryan Fletcher

Sport: Nordic combined

Bryan Fletcher

Ties to Steamboat: He lives near Park City, Utah, now with the rest of the U.S. team but was born and raised in Steamboat.

Position: Fletcher is the top-scoring U.S. Nordic combined skier on the World Cup and currently ranked 19th in the Cup rankings this season. He's been the team's most consistent performer for several years.

What needs to go right: Nothing else. He won the Olympic Trials in December to ensure he had a spot and now will focus on peaking at the right time.

Chances: Lock. 100 percent.

Outlook at the Olympics: Fletcher hasn't landed on the podium in his last 101 individual World Cup races, but he's often in the hunt, especially in big events. He had a solid shot at medals late in the cross-country ski races at each of the last two World Ski Championships. He's been right there this year, too, placing in the top 10 in two of his last three events. He's skiing better now than he ever has and worked hard in the summer to shore up his late-race approach. Sure, it'd be a surprise to see him on the podium, but he definitely has a puncher's chance.

Taylor Fletcher

Taylor Fletcher

Sport: Nordic combined

Ties to Steamboat: He lives in Park City but was born and raised in Steamboat.

Position: Fletcher, a two-time Olympian, is currently at the bottom of the list when it comes to making the Olympic team. That's misleading, however. Many of his teammates picked up points in the Continental Cup while he was competing (and not getting points) on the World Cup. He's definitely not last, but his path isn't without hurdles, either.

What needs to go right: He needs to jump better. His jumping has kept him from qualifying to compete in most World Cup events so far this season, which has kept him from scoring the points he needs. He is, in his own words, "in a pickle," but opportunity remains. This weekend's World Cup event was cancelled because of a lack of snow, which puts a ton of pressure on next weekend's World Cup in Italy. There's another World Cup event after that which would count, plus a Continental Cup that could be a factor, but he can make things real simple with a top-30 finish in Italy.

Chances: Work to do. 60 percent.

Outlook at the Olympics: It's hard to imagine Fletcher being competitive for a medal given his jumping struggles, but he's one of the fastest skiers in the world, and if he can take some steps on the ski jump — he's working as hard as anyone can — he could be devastating in the cross-country ski race. If he jumps anywhere inside the top 25, no one in front of him is safe.

Jasper Good

Jasper Good

Sport: Nordic combined

Ties to Steamboat: Lives in Park City since joining the national team but was born and raised in Steamboat.

Position: Good had strong results in the Continental Cup events in Steamboat Springs, landing in the top 12 on all three days. That puts him toward the top of the pack when it comes to the race for the Olympic team, though he's far from guaranteed.

What needs to go right: He needs more strong results at Continental Cup, and when he gets a chance at World Cup next week, it would really help if he could capitalize with a top-30 finish. He's on track but needs to stay consistent or get that one home run result.

Chances: Work to do. 50 percent.

Outlook at the Olympics: He's young and hopes to be poised to be a contender at the Olympics in 2022. A top-30 result would be solid this go-around.

Adam Loomis

Adam Loomis

Sport: Nordic combined

Ties to Steamboat: He lives in Park City and Eau Claire, Wisconsin, is home, but he made the "Steamboat athlete" list when he lived and trained in town for several years. His younger brother, Ben Loomis, skipped the Steamboat step, and while he's also gunning for the Olympics, doesn't have the "Steamboat" label.

Position: He's in a much better spot today than he was a week ago. Lackluster international results seemed to have Loomis on the outside looking in while younger skiers with more momentum (i.e. his brother) were closing in on the team. Adam threw down at the U.S. Olympic Team Trails last week in Park City, however. He didn't win the guaranteed spot that was up for grabs but finished second, throwing himself right back into what seems to be nearly a dead heat among five skiers for three spots.

What needs to go right: He needs to carry his performance from the Olympics Trials onto the international stage. He's done well there before and is the only non-Fletcher currently on the team to ever score points in a World Cup. More recent results haven't been great, but he's worked as hard as anyone and stuck with the sport for this opportunity. It's still there for the taking. He'll be skiing on the Continental Cup this month.

Chances: Work to do. 50 percent.

Outlook at the Olympics: He'd be a long shot for a medal but has certainly shown he's capable of a strong result. Anything in the top 30 would be a good day.

Ben Berend

Nordic combined skier Ben Berend

Sport: Nordic combined

Ties to Steamboat: Lives in Park City since joining the national team but was born and raised in Steamboat.

Position: He's in a slightly worse position than his friends and teammates because his results at the Steamboat Continental Cup events weren't quite as good, but upcoming events may play more to his strengths.

What needs to go right: He needs a big weekend at the Continental Cup in Klingenthal, Germany, this weekend. He started the season on the World Cup, a vote of confidence from coaches, but didn't have strong performances there and now needs a boost. He can get it in Klingenthal, which has one of the larger jump hills on the circuit. That's traditionally played well with Berend's skills. He was eighth in that event a year ago, one of the best results of his career.

Chances: Work to do. 50 percent.

Outlook at the Olympics: Berend hasn't been quite ready to compete at the World Cup level yet, but he's shown some of the tools. He was second place in a World Cup after the jumping last season but didn't have the race acumen or endurance to carry that start to a strong overall finish. That'll all come with time, though maybe not by February. He could jump well at the Olympics, and a top-30 finish would be a good result.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9.

Recommended Stories For You