Taylor Fletcher soars to first international win | ParkRecord.com

Taylor Fletcher soars to first international win

Christopher Kamrani, The Park Record

Prior to his first ever international win Sunday, Park City resident and Nordic combined athlete Taylor Fletcher posted a message on his Twitter account.

"Reaching for the one step I have yet to get!!!" Fletcher tweeted.

On Sunday afternoon at Soldier Hollow, the 21-year-old U.S. Ski Team member achieved that step, winning an FIS Nordic Combined Continental Cup. After finishing 28th in the ski-jumping portion of the event at the Utah Olympic Park, Fletcher blazed a remarkable trail en route to his first international victory at Soldier Hollow.

Starting the cross-country portion with a deficit of one minute and 50 seconds, he took the lead halfway through the race and never looked back. The victory, his sixth individual Continental Cup podium, thrust Fletcher into the overall Continental Cup lead.

"It’s not something you see too often when someone can come back so fast like that," he said Monday. "That’s a big chunk of time to make up to get the victory. Just being in such good form gave me such a big advantage. Coming into the finishing stretch on my own, knowing I had the victory, was such a good way to take the win."

Fletcher defeated second-place finisher Michael Duenkel of Germany by 16.9 seconds, while fellow German Michael Schlott finished third. In total, three U.S. Ski Team members finished in the top eight as Erik Lynch of Steamboat Springs, Colo., finished seventh and Parkite Nick Hendrickson finished eighth.

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"We knew that Taylor was coming," said Duenkel in a release, "but Taylor was too strong for us."

Fletcher credited his first international win to the arduous off-season training the Nordic combined athletes undergo. Whether it was running, roller skiing, biking or weight-training, Fletcher said he had been working on preparing his body for the grueling Nordic combined season since April 1.

"I think I was close to having over 500 hours of training ahead of the whole winter," he said. "You don’t have time off. Once this season ends, there’s two weeks for us to rest and recover and do what we need to do for the upcoming season. It’s definitely paying off when you have good results to show."

Fletcher, a Park City resident since 2009, said finishing that step of his still-young career in his own backyard made the victory more enjoyable.

"It definitely made it a little bit sweeter," he said. "It’s something that I’ve wished for for a long time. To win in the U.S., in front of the hometown fans, it was kind of a surreal moment."

He said he has reached his form recently on the World Cup Nordic combined circuit, which helped him attain the top of the podium in Soldier Hollow Sunday.

"It was definitely some of my best skiing I’ve ever done," he said. "I was pretty confident coming into the weekend that I could have some good chances at some podiums. I knew I would be one of the fastest guys there."

Due to previously cancelled Nordic combined events at Lake Placid, races continued Tuesday and are scheduled to continue today at the Utah Olympic Park and Soldier Hollow.

So, the question is, can Taylor Fletcher make it a double in a three-day span?

"The important thing is to be in the top three in the series, which will help secure a World Cup circuit spot," he said. "But I’m definitely hoping to be on the podium both days."

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