4-time Olympian Taylor Fletcher wins first in his last race

PARK CITY, Utah — Taylor Fletcher won first place in the nordic combined competition on Saturday. The four-time Olympian won the mass-start individual 10K cross country race at Soldier Hollow, followed by the normal hill ski jump at the Utah Olympic Park that afternoon. It was one part of an International Ski Federation (FIS) Continental Cup (COC.) He had announced that this was to be his final competition. 

Nineteen men crossed the starting line en masse. They represented the USA, Austria, Italy, Germany, Poland, and Norway. After lap one, Fletcher was leading and opened up a massive gap. Lap two saw an estimated 22-second stretched gap. After lap three, his gap had widened to about 29 seconds. In the final lap, the lead grew to approximately one minute and 15 seconds. Jacob Lange of Germany chased Taylor with no luck in catching him. The double-digit deficit in meters was Lange’s try to make up in the ski jump portion, a deficit that proved insurmountable. 

After the race, Taylor told me, “It’s always nice to be able to race at home and in front of a crowd. There are some great friends and family out here today, the pandemic kept them from being able to show their support in this way at other competitions like at the Olympics in Beijing, so I’m lucky they’re all here now for the final weekend of my career.”

Fletcher and his brother Bryan are long-time locals to Park City who grew up in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Before the race, his brother, Bryan, who is also a retired USA Nordic, two-time Olympic nordic combined athlete, told me, “I couldn’t be more excited to be here to watch ‘Tay’ (Taylor) wrap up his awesome career here on this beautiful weather day at Soldier Hollow. I think he’s looking forward to a good race, and we’re all happy to be able to be here to watch his last competition.”

Gold and silver Olympic medalist Billy Demong, Executive Director of USA Nordic, is content to stay behind the scenes orchestrating such international events these days. So, his announcing Taylor’s final race was a special surprise.

Taylor’s costume-clad friends lead their dog throughout the finish area while his Mom, Penny, and Stepdad, Fred, held up hand-colored signs. Even the international competition officials who otherwise make it a point to stay neutral in such matters and such moments could be seen and heard applauding and cheering from the shadows as Taylor crossed the finish line this one final time. 

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