Strong bond leads Americans into World Championships |

Strong bond leads Americans into World Championships

Group of Parkites rely on each other to get through

Team USAs ski wax technicians get ready to cheer on Americans Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall in the womens freestyle sprint at the 2017 FIS Nordic Ski World Championships on Thursday night. The Americans have a strong bond and support each other during big events, such as this one.
Photo courtesy of Tom Kelly/USSA

The best Nordic skiers in the world are all have congregated in Lahti, Finland, for the 2017 FIS Nordic Ski World Championships, which started Thursday. More than 700 athletes from 60 different countries are participating in the event, which will span 12 days.

But no matter how far away Team USA travels — there’s nearly 5,000 miles between America and Finland — a small group of Parkites within the team will always have each other to lean on.

On the team’s roster, there are some athletes who were born and raised here in Park City, such as Sarah Hendrickson, Will Rhoads and Rosie Brennan. Others, like Stephen and Bryan and Taylor Fletcher, now call the town home. Pretty much any member of the team has some sort of connection to the area, whether it be via training, temporary living, etc.

“It’s (having members of the team from Park City) like a little piece of home for me when I travel the World Cup all year,” cross-country skier and Park City native Liz Stephen said. “We definitely have a little extra bond.”

The World Championships, though, isn’t Park City against the World. It’s all of Team USA, evident during Stephen’s interview with the Park Record.

Stephen could hardly contain her excitement for American teammates Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall, who she just watched take the silver and bronze medals in the freestyle sprint just seconds before conducting the interview. She was watching with a group of six other American athletes, who were just as elated.

The cheering extends further than just one specific discipline, too. The cross-country team always cheers on the jumping team, and vice versa. It’s an ongoing stream of support on Team USA.

“There’s definitely a bond between all the U.S. athletes,” Bryan Fletcher said. “We’re always pulling for each other, always cheering for each other. Right now, I’ve got three of my other teammates all huddled in our cabin with the TV on watching the women’s sprint. It’s kind of a cool atmosphere to have that camaraderie and that support. And knowing that everyone is watching and cheering for you, you do have that bond.”

The Americans will need that bond as they each go through their respective competitions throughout the 12 days. The athletes work all year long on the FIS World Cup tour to get to this point in the season, which could to increased anxiety and stress.

Surprisingly, though, it’s the opposite, Fletcher said.

“It’s a relaxed atmosphere,” he said. “There’s a lot of people out there cheering. It’s a fun competition and hopefully they go well. It’s kind of just a stress-free environment. It is what it is and hopefully you come away with good results.”

All that matters at the championships is getting onto the podium. There’s no points divvied up to the rest of the competitors that finish after the top three, so athletes typically give it all they’ve got in these final races of the season.

With the Americans already kicking things off with a bang on the first day of competition with two medals in the women’s freestyle sprint race, Stephen expects more podium finishes to follow.

“Good results build off of good results,” Stephen said. “It also gives you the confidence that you need to be able to perform at your best. I think there’s so many factors that go into a good performance and seeing your teammates on the podium is just really exciting for us.”

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