Park City • He glanced over his right shoulder, and then over his left.

Each time he peeked, there was no one in sight.

So Bryan Fletcher just kept pushing, thrusting each ski pole into the snow a few seconds away from the finish line. Once he crossed it solo, overcoming a one-minute and 24-second time gap to earn the only Olympic spot awarded to the first-place finisher, Fletcher bent down, let out a roar of elation and collapsed to the ground.

Fletcher stayed down for nearly a minute, trying to catch his breath.

“I would say I gave it everything I had, and if the finish line was 10 feet further,” he said, “I don’t know if I would’ve made it.”

(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Bryan Fletcher yells as he crosses the finish line in 25:06.8 to win the 10K cross country race and the Nordic Combined Olympic Trials in Park City, Saturday, December 30, 2017.

The 31-year-old Olympian from Steamboat Springs, Colo., who now resides in the Heber Valley won the Nordic combined U.S. Olympic Team Trials event Saturday afternoon at the Utah Olympic Park in front of an estimated crowd of 3,000 spectators.

After finishing fifth in the ski jumping portion of the trials, Fletcher smoked the cross-country 10K segment of the event to solidify his spot at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“It sunk in right when I crossed that finish line, when it was guaranteed,” he said. “That was like such a relief and I think you could tell by the scream at the end, I was just so relieved to have that victory.”

Despite being the fifth athlete to start the cross-country race, Fletcher picked off the racers ahead of him one-by-one. He eventually caught leader Ben Loomis on the fourth lap with one lap remaining and didn’t yield the top spot. Fletcher, who finished 22nd and 26th overall in the individual performances at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, proved why he’s America’s top medal threat in South Korea.

“I was a lot more nervous for this trials kind of being the veteran going into it,” he said.

Turns out, Penny Fletcher made the safe bet of booking travel to Pyeonchang.

She knew one of her sons, Bryan or Taylor, who finished fourth Saturday, would likely earn one of the guaranteed spots on the Olympic team. So as colleagues congratulated Bryan on his win, Penny had a front-row seat in the crowd.

“I’m still trying to catch my breath with that,” she said.

While ecstatic for Bryan, mom also added, “One more lap, Taylor would’ve had him.”

Following the ski jumping event Saturday morning, she left the competition venue to take her dog on a walk, assuming her sons were going to have one of the top spots for the cross-country start. When she returned to see they were fifth and sixth, respectively, “my heart dropped,” she said.

Then Penny Fletcher added: “I know the tenacity that my boys have.”

Bryan showed it by overcoming nearly a minute-and-a-half gap. Taylor, considered one of the fastest skiers in the world in Nordic combined, endured an uncharacterstic day overall. In the most disappointing moment, however, he found time to crack a smile for his older brother.

(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Nordic Combined Olympic Trials winner Bryan Fletcher, left, gives his brother Bryan Fletcher a pat on the back after Bryan came in to finish fourth in the 10K cross country race in the in Park City, Saturday, December 30, 2017.

“Stoked,” Taylor Fletcher said. “I was really hoping that one of us were going to win, and he’s been the most consistent, so I had no doubt. I was a little worried after the jump, because he didn’t have the most favorable of conditions or the best jump, but I know I’m not that far off of him. I think I can get there.”

Once Bryan Fletcher finally caught his breath, and picked himself up off the snow, he was the first person beyond the finish line to high-five every ensuing athlete. Once Taylor crossed fourth, he crouched down. Bryan patted his younger brother on the back. Bryan was eventually greeted by wife, Nikki, and young daughter, Ellery, perfecting a moment four years in the making.

Penny Fletcher looked on, wiping each tear streaming down her face.

She had a feeling one of her boys would be atop the podium Saturday.

“The reason why we have two different sides of our hearts is that one is always pumping while one is always pushing the blood out, and my heart is always beating and pumping in different directions,” she said. “There’s no such thing as a tie in this sport. I do have dreams of my boys tying, but that’ll never happen. So there’s either one that’s ahead or one that’s behind and I just have to celebrate their success.”


Nordic Combined

At Utah Olympic Park, Park City

1. Bryan Fletcher (qualified for 2018 Olympics)

2. Adam Loomis

3. Ben Loomis

Sunday schedule » Ski jumping: Men’s and women’s competition jumps, 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.