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Taylor Fletcher Wins Nordic Combined Olympic Trials & Qualifies For His Fourth Olympic Games

By Peggy Shinn | Dec. 24, 2021, 7:32 p.m. (ET)

Taylor Fletcher celebrates after winning the Nordic Combined Olympic Trials on Dec. 24, 2021 in Lake Placid, New York. 

 

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — It was a tale of two men.

U.S. Olympic Team Trials — Nordic Combined came down to a battle between 23-year-old Ben Loomis and 31-year-old Taylor Fletcher, known as the “Old Man” among his USA Nordic teammates.

Old or not, Fletcher is one of the fastest cross-country skiers on the Nordic combined world cup circuit. He used that speed to overcome a 56-second deficit on Loomis at the start of the 10-kilometer skate race to win his first Olympic Trials event — and make his fourth Olympic Team.

“It's as good as the first,” said Fletcher of qualifying for the team that will compete at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.

Loomis held on for the runner-up spot. Jared Shumate, 21, came in third. 

“I knew it was going to be a tough fight regardless,” said a disappointed Loomis, “and Taylor was strong today.”

Nordic combined is a sport that combines ski jumping and cross-country skiing. Only the winner of Nordic combined Olympic Trials is nominated to the 2022 U.S. Olympic Team. The other four skiers will be named to the team later in January. (Of note, women’s Nordic combined has yet to make the Olympic program.)

The 2022 U.S. Olympic Team Trials — Nordic Combined began on Christmas Eve at the Lake Placid Olympic Jumping Complex’s newly revamped ski jumps. Loomis out-jumped Fletcher by 6 meters, gaining 70 distance points to Fletcher’s 58, plus two more style points than his older teammate. Loomis’s total score in the normal hill competition was 125.5 points to Fletcher’s 111.5. The 14-point score difference gave Loomis a 56-second lead over Fletcher at the start of the 10-kilometer skate ski.

Jasper Good finished second in the jump, with 117 points, and Jared Shumate came in third with 116.5 points. These two would start 34 and 36 seconds, respectively, behind Loomis but ahead of Fletcher.

Taylor Fletcher in action during a trial jump before the start of the U.S. Nordic Combined & Ski Jump Olympic Trials on Dec. 24, 2021 in Lake Placid, New York.

 

From the start of the 10k, Fletcher was hot in pursuit. 

“I didn't have my best jump,” he said. “I'm capable of a lot more. But you know, I didn't have the worst jump either, and I was in the hunt from the start.”

Fletcher quickly caught Good and Shumate, and by the second of four laps, was within 9 seconds of Loomis. By the third lap, he had dropped Good and Shumate and caught Loomis. The two then skied together until the final climb.

“Ben put in a really strong move at the very top of the course and stretched that gap a little bit,” explained Fletcher. “But fortunately, I was able to come back right before the downhill. And then it was really … there's $10,000 on the line.”

Fletcher dropped Loomis and held the lead to the end. This is Fletcher’s first Olympic Trials win in four tries. At the three previous Nordic combined Olympic Trials, he was vying for a spot on the team with the likes of his older brother Bryan and 2010 Olympic medalists Todd Lodwick, Bill Demong, and Johnny Spillane.

“It’s very rewarding to be able to win here because in years past, it's been always so difficult [to win] with Billy Demong and Johnny Spillane and Bryan,” admitted Fletcher. “Even though there were good years in there, I always felt like I just never had the performance.”

Looking ahead, Fletcher — who grew up skiing with his brother in Steamboat Springs, Colorado — is excited about the younger Americans coming up behind him, particularly Loomis. From Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Loomis has long been on USA Nordic’s radar. At age five, he tried ski jumping after watching his older brother, Adam. The younger Loomis then rose through the ranks. 

“He has more talent than I had at his age,” said Demong, who now leads USA Nordic, the national leadership organization for Nordic combined and ski jumping in the U.S.

Still a junior, Loomis competed at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games just a couple of weeks after winning a bronze medal in the normal hill competition at the FIS World Junior Championships. He had finished seventh in the jump portion of that competition, then he skied himself onto the podium.

Notably, in that competition, Loomis finished 8 seconds ahead of Austrian Johannes Lamparter, who has consistently finished on the world cup podium this season. 

Loomis leads a group of talented young Nordic combined athletes who could pull the U.S. back to the glory days of Nordic combined — when Demong, Spillane, and Lodwick were raking in Olympic and world championship medals, as they did at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. 

“With Bill at the helm of USA Nordic, everyone has been putting their hearts and souls into development and really going from the bottom up to develop athletes and grow the sport,” said Fletcher, pointing out that the U.S. Nordic combined contingent is one of the third biggest in the world. 

“We may not show it result-wise right now, but give it five, six years, and I'm confident that these guys are going to be fighting for those top spots come world championships and the Olympics,” he added.

This season, Loomis has finished consistently in the world cup points (top 30). And at the Lillehammer World Cup in early December, he and Fletcher helped the U.S. finish fifth in the team event. It was the U.S. men’s best finish in a team event since 2014.

Loomis is currently ranked 29th in world cup standings, one place ahead of Fletcher. A stalwart on the U.S. Nordic combined team for the past decade, Fletcher has two world cup podium finishes on his resume, and he helped the U.S. earn a bronze medal in the team event at the 2013 world championships. 

“We're in a better position than we've been in the past,” said Loomis. “We still have a young team, so we're all going to come away with experience [in Beijing] and keep building into the 2026 Games.”

Peggy Shinn

An award-winning freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered six Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.

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