Bryan Fletcher will be appearing in his second Olympics at the 2018 games in Pyeongchang. The American skiing veteran also has extensive World Championship experience, participating five times dating back to 2007. Fletcher has reached the podium once at the World Championships, winning bronze in 2013 in the team normal hill event.
The 31-year-old’s story however goes well beyond the slopes. He is a cancer survivor and was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when he was just three years old. After several years of chemotherapy, Fletcher’s cancer went into remission when he was 10 years old. The slopers were a big part of Fletcher’s recovery and he is now enjoying a successful skiing career.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Won the U.S. Olympic Nordic Combined Ski Trials
In the weeks leading up to the games, Fletcher locked up his second Winter Olympics berth by winning the U.S. Olympic Nordic Combined Trials in Park City, Utah. Fletcher overcame an 84-second deficit after the ski jump and breezed through the 10 kilometer cross-country ski portion of the race to reach the finish line first. Brothers Adam and Ben Loomis finished second and third in the event, followed by Fletcher’s younger brother, Taylor.
Fletcher also competed in several World Championship races during the 2017 season, however he failed to reach the podium. His highest finish was eighth in the team normal hill event. Fletcher also earned a ninth-place finish in the team sprint large hill. He also competed in two individual events, finishing no higher than 14th.
2. Fletcher is a Two-Time Olympian
Fletcher made his Olympic debut four years ago in Sochi. He finished 22nd and 26th in two individual events and sixth in the team event. In the days leading up to the 2014 Sochi Games, NBC featured Bryan along with his brother Taylor as the two competed in the Olympics together for the first time. Bryan was forced to miss the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver due to an ankle injury sustained from falling down stairs. His brother Taylor took the final spot on Team USA’s Olympic skiing roster in place of Bryan.
The two brothers are considered America’s best hope to win an Olympic medal in Nordic Combined, something Team USA hasn’t done since 2010. The 19th century sport consists of two separate individual events, ski jumping and cross country skiing. It’s been historically dominated by Norway, who have earned 30 medals in Nordic Combined since the sport was added to the Olympics in 1924. Team USA has won just four medals in the sport, and just one gold medal, won by Bill Demong at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Bryan Fletcher began competing in Nordic Combined in 2010, despite not knowing much about the discipline: “I didn’t really know what it was, but my friends were doing it, so I was going to do it,” Fletcher told SI.com. “So when they handed me a pair of cross-country skis, I was kind of surprised, like, oh no, what is this? But it turns out I had a talent for it.”
3. He is a Cancer Survivor
Fletcher began experiencing headaches, sleeping a lot and losing weight when he was three years old. His parents took him to a doctor and he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. “When I first found out about it, I thought it was a death sentence,” Bryan’s father, Tim, told Yahoo! Sports. Bryan said he doesn’t remember much about the early years of his cancer diagnosis, he also had a stroke which greatly affected his memory.
“Just bits and pieces,” Bryan told Yahoo! Sports by phone. “I remember walking in the hospital corridor behind my parents and the doctors. I remember trying to hear what they were saying to each other, and wondering if it was good news or bad news.”
Bryan underwent chemotherapy for several years before going into remission at age 10. Despite his health obstacles he kept an upbeat attitude during his childhood years, making light of his bald head by painting it green and wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume in school. Fletcher took up skiing during chemotherapy and treated the sport as an escape from the arduous treatments. By age 16, only six years after his cancer went into remission, Bryan was good enough on the slopes to compete at an Olympic level in Nordic Combined.
4. Bryan and His Family Grew Up On The Slopes
His brother Taylor is also a world-class skier, and the two will be competing at the same Olympics for the second time. “Taylor and I complement each other very well in the competition,” Bryan told NordicJumpWorld.com. “We push each other to a higher level, and on the track and on the hill we observe the other. It’s a perfect training partnership.”
Bryan and Taylor grew up on the slopes in the ski town of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Their father, Tim, was a ski patrolman at Steamboat Ski Resort for decades. The two brothers were thrust onto the mountain at a very young age and they both loved it. Now they are competing on the world’s largest stage in a sport that is known to keep things in the family. “We’re really lucky that Nordic combined is a sport that has a lot of brother pairs,” Bryan told SI.com. “That community, once one person gets in, the other usually follows in his footsteps. It’s really special to be able to share a team with him.”
Taylor also values the brotherly love he has received from Bryan over the years. “Bryan and I are perfect teammates,” Taylor told NordicJumpWorld.com. “We train together almost every day and push each other to get better. In competition, of course, I always want to beat my brother, and of course he wants me too. However, when we walk together, we often work together to make it harder for the others to defeat us.”
5. Off The Slopes, Fletcher Gives Back to the Community
Bryan is involved in several cancer fighting charities, raising awareness and funds for the cause. He recently co-founded a charity called ccThrive, which aims to help childhood cancer survivors. According to Fletcher’s U.S. Ski and Snowboard bio, he declares: “a child should not be defined by their lowest moments, many survivors have already been through so much it’s hard for them to reach and realize their full potential. Thrive will help them reach their fullest potential enabling them to Thrive”.
Bryan and his wife Nikki have one daughter, Ellery. The two recently celebrated an anniversary, which Bryan commemorated with a post on Instagram. According to his Olympic bio, Bryan also enjoys weekends hiking with his dog, biking, camping and various other outdoor activities. He also has a passion for cooking and experimenting with new flavors.