Pyeongchang, South Korea • The brothers thought about it. They even ran it by their old man.
Maybe a flight around the globe wasn’t a good idea. Not now. They knew how bitterly cold it is here, high in the mountains hosting these 2018 Olympic Winter Games. They knew that, no matter what, it would be an uncomfortable test for their father. Turns out, the conversation didn’t go anywhere.
Tim Fletcher was coming to watch his sons, Bryan and Taylor, participate in what could be their last Olympics as teammates and competitors in the Nordic combined event.
“He’s a stubborn old man, to put it honestly,” said Taylor, now a three-time Olympian. He’s just happy to come watch us ski. That’s his life, something he’s always wanted us to do. I can’t blame him.”
Two years ago, Tim Fletcher was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). There is no cure for this neurological disease that is known to progress swiftly over a short amount of time. He was a ski patroller in their hometown of Steamboat Springs, Colo., so skiing was always part of the equation for his sons. This much is guaranteed: there will be emotions when Bryan, 31, and Taylor, 27, soar off the ski jumps at Alpensia Olympic Park and take to the cross-country course nearby.
Bryan, a two-time Olympian, thought in the fall it would be impossible. At Christmas, Tim was enjoying the holidays, still hoping that South Korea would be a possibility. Then, in mid-January, dad made the decision. He informed his sons that he’d make a go of it.
Staring up at the Olympic hill, his skis perched over his right shoulder after his first training jump in Pyeongchang, Bryan says it won’t be easy. It will be rough at times in the freezing temperatures, but his presence will serve as a catalyst for them both when competition officially begins Wednesday.
“I think it’ll be really hard,” Bryan said, “but knowing him, he would not miss this for the world.”
These brothers have never been lacking in the ambition department.
Their mother, Penny, who is also in Pyeongchang to watch them compete, believes their drive was birthed in Steamboat Springs, which has long been a steady producer of Winter Olympic athletes for decades. From a young age, they were surrounded by ski coaches who were Olympians themselves.
“Because of that,” Penny said, “they have this Olympic drive and Olympic spirit.”
She’s also reluctant to pair the word “winner” with “loser.” She can’t. Not when talking about her boys. She’s still enthralled by their differing styles of competition and how they manage to try their hardest to beat one another on the course or in the air, but keep the brotherly bond intact.
“There’s always a winner and there’s not,” Penny said. “It’s a balancing act to learn how to communicate with each other.”
Bryan first relocated to Utah 12 years ago. Taylor eventually followed. They settled into a picturesque lifestyle along the Wasatch Back, which reminds them of life back home in Steamboat. Bryan lives in Heber with wife Nikki and daughter Ellery. Taylor lives in Park City. His girlfriend is U.S. Olympic aerialist Kiley McKinnon. They’re both regulars at the Soldier Hollow cross-country course in Midway.
The brothers are also Westminster College students. Bryan also attends Utah State part time.
They’ve answered the same questions countless times, asked to describe how it feels to be a fellow Olympian with one another. The Fletchers are one of seven sibling pairs on this year’s Team USA roster in South Korea. This week could be the last time they go toe-to-toe with the world’s best, both as teammates and friendly rivals on the snow. It remains to be seen if Bryan will go for 2022.
“It’s something super special,” he said. “You can’t take it for granted. To be at an Olympics with a sibling is pretty much remarkable. and we enjoy every moment.”
“We work so hard together,” Taylor added.
And what just a couple of months ago was considered a dream, Bryan and Taylor Fletcher will get another Olympic moment with both of their parents scheduled to be in the stands, perhaps one last time.
“To have my dad coming is something special,” Taylor said. “He’s battling a terrible disease, and if you look at him, you’re not going to see that he’s fighting ALS. You’re going to see him enjoying the sport, watching his sons compete, and that’s important to him.”