Olympic spots still outstanding for Steamboat athletes as qualifying finales approach | SteamboatToday.com

Olympic spots still outstanding for Steamboat athletes as qualifying finales approach

Steamboat Springs Nordic combined skier Ben Berend jumps at Howelsen Hill last month during a Continental Cup competition. Berend recorded some of his best results of the season through the weekend at another Continental Cup in Finland.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat's potential Olympians still on the fence for making the U.S. Olympic Team weren't able to take steps toward securing a spot at the 2018 Winter Olympics during a weekend that, for many, provided a penultimate opportunity to earn a trip to South Korea, which will play host to the Opening Ceremonies Feb. 9 in PyeongChang.

Bryan Fletcher leads Nordic combined team

Three World Cup Nordic combined competitions in Val di Fiemme, Italy, and two Continental Cup competitions in Ruka, Finland, didn't do much to clear up what's still a very cloudy picture of the potential Olympic U.S. Nordic Combined Team.

The best performance at the big show, the World Cup, came from Steamboat Springs' Bryan Fletcher, the only U.S. skier to have officially locked up a spot at the Olympics.

He was 32nd on the first day of the competition. On the second, he teamed up with brother Taylor Fletcher for a ninth-place finish in a team relay event. Finally, Sunday, on the third day in Italy, Fletcher placed 19th, skiing up from a 34th-place jump with the day's second-fastest ski time.

"Going into the race, looking at where everyone was, I knew there was a chance for a good result," Fletcher said in a USA Nordic news release. "I went out hard with a goal, put my head down, and I had a good race. I’ll take it. I think that things are heading in the right direction."

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Things didn't go as well for Taylor Fletcher, one of those skiers in need of a strong result to secure a spot at the Olympics.

Jumping has been his Achilles' heel, and often, poor results have kept him from advancing beyond the qualification jumping round. On the first day of competition in Italy, however, he recorded a stronger jump in qualifying, earning the chance to compete in the actual event.

He still couldn't get the top-30 finish he needed to score World Cup points, skiing up from 49th place to finish 43rd.

He then didn't make it through the qualifying round for Sunday's individual competition.

Jasper Good, another Steamboat Springs skier, couldn't follow up a series of strong Continental Cup results with a similar performance on the World Cup. He was short on both of his qualification jumps and didn't compete.

Ben Loomis, from Eau Clarie, Wisconsin, did compete in Sunday's event, recording his best career World Cup finish, 38th.

At the Continental Cup level, Steamboat Springs skier Ben Berend had his best two performances of the season. He was 18th one day and 16th the other, leading the way for a four-man U.S. team.

Park City, Utah's Stephen Schumann was 22nd one day and 23rd the other. Adam Loomis was 25th and 31st. Steamboat skier Grant Andrews was 27th — matching his best international result — and 31st.

The World Cup continues Saturday in Chaux-Neuve, France, the final individual World Cup Nordic combined event before the Olympic team will be announced. The Continental Cup will be in Rena, Norway, on Saturday and Sunday with two individual events.

Crossan still looking for qualifying boost

Neither Steamboat Springs ski cross racer Brant Crossan nor his primary competition to make the U.S. team, California-based skier Tyler Wallasch, were able to improve their qualifying opportunity in a pair of World Cup events in Idre Fjall, Sweden.

Both failed to advance beyond the qualification round in the events and didn't score any World Cup points. Wallasch has accumulated 16 points this season to Crossan's nine. That's a small enough margin that a strong performance from Crossan could easily make it up, though he's running out of time.

The final ski cross qualifying event for the U.S. team is scheduled for Friday and Saturday in  Nakiska, Alberta.

Women's ski jumpers struggle

Nita Englund, who trained for several years in Steamboat Springs, struggled to put up a strong result at a World Cup women's ski jumping event in Sapporo, Japan. She placed 52nd in the one event she competed.

She wasn't alone in finding the Japanese hill difficult. She was joined at the competition by Tara Geraghty-Moats, Abby Ringquist and Sarah Hendrickson, but none were able to score World Cup points in the competitions.

Hendrickson is the only one who's officially locked up a World Cup spot, though Englund and Ringquist have scored on the World Cup this season.

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