Bryan Fletcher, cancer survivor, wins U.S. Olympic Nordic Combined Trials
Bryan Fletcher, diagnosed with leukemia at age 4, won the U.S. Olympic Nordic Combined Trials to lock up his second Winter Games berth on Saturday.
Fletcher, 31, overcame an 84-second deficit after the ski jump to reach the 10km cross-country ski finish line first in Park City, Utah.
Brothers Adam and Ben Loomis were second and third, followed by Fletcher’s younger brother, Taylor, according to reports from Park City.
As a boy, Bryan Fletcher underwent chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia for more than four years, surviving a stroke in the process, before going into remission at age 8.
He entered kindergarten with a bald head but made light of his condition by painting it green and wearing a matching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles outfit.
Fletcher, who took up skiing during chemo, was a ski jumping forerunner at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
He just missed the 2010 Olympic team due to an ankle injury from falling down stairs. Taylor took the last spot instead.
Fletcher made his Olympic debut in Sochi, finishing 22nd and 26th in two individual events and sixth in the team event.
Ben Loomis, a 19-year-old and 2016 Youth Olympic silver medalist, led Saturday’s trials after the ski jump portion. Bryan and Taylor Fletcher were fifth and sixth going into the 10km.
This Olympic Nordic combined team will not have any of the men who won the U.S.’ four medals in the sport, all in 2010.
Bill Demong and Todd Lodwick, who competed in the last five Olympics, retired after Sochi.
Without them, U.S. skiers haven’t performed well enough internationally yet to earn an Olympic berth in the Nordic combined team event.
The U.S. currently has two spots available in the individual events in PyeongChang but can get up to five spots (and a team event berth) by the qualifying deadline in three weeks.
The team event has been in the Olympics since 1988, with the U.S. taking part each time.
The U.S. Olympic ski jumping trials are Sunday, airing on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app at 1 p.m. ET.
The male and female winners will clinch Olympic berths, with the rest of the team announced in January.
The favorites include Sochi Olympian Sarah Hendrickson and Nita Englund, plus Will Rhoads and Kevin Bickner, a pair leading a new generation of U.S. male jumpers.