By the end of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Nordic combined skier Taylor Fletcher hopes fans know his name just as well as they know his brother Bryan's.
Bryan, the elder Fletcher by four years, is the better ski jumper in a sport that features jumping and cross-country skiing, according to Taylor. But the younger Fletcher said he's the better cross-country skier.
“Bryan and I work really well together,” he said. “Since he's a better jumper, I can learn a lot from him. It's such a technical and mental sport – when you're jumping well, you have the idea of what to do and it comes really natural. But when it's not going the best, I have him to look up to him and see what he's doing so I can try to do it myself.”
By learning from each other, the Fletcher brothers have become one of the top brother tandems in a sport that features several family pairings.
“We've got a fun little competition with the Japanese team – Akito and Yoshito [Watabe],” Taylor Fletcher said. “They're both good jumpers – Akito is one of the best skiers on the World Cup tour and Yoshito's definitely one of the best jumpers. We kind of fight back and forth with each other to see who's the best brother duo.”
But the Fletchers' biggest battle is the one among themselves. Taylor Fletcher says he loves to best his older brother every chance he gets.
“Every weekend we go into [competitions] battling each other,” he said. “We pretty much alternated positions every week – one weekend he'd be better, the next I'd be better. I'd definitely like to get the upper hand on Bryan.”
Heading into the Sochi Olympics, however, the Fletchers can agree on one thing.
“We definitely have one goal,” Taylor said. “Going into the Olympics, our goal is to get an Olympic medal together. Whether that's both of us on the podium at an individual event or a team event, it doesn't matter.”
The Fletchers are no strangers to sharing podiums, having won the first-ever U.S. team event medal at the 2013 World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy, where the Fletchers, along with Todd Lodwick and Billy Demong, took third place.
“That was huge for us,” Taylor said. “Getting the first team medal at a World Championships was quite the experience.”
And the team is only getting stronger ahead of Sochi, he added. Since the team headquarters were moved from Steamboat Springs, Colo., where the Fletchers grew up, to Park City, Utah, Taylor said the team has gotten even closer.
“We're all over here in Park City now,” he said. “Every day, at least one of the training sessions is together, so I think the team atmosphere is way better that way. Everyone is learning from each other and I think it leads to better success as a team.”
Now, Taylor Fletcher hopes his second Olympic experience goes better than his first.
After making the 2010 Vancouver Olympic team ahead of his brother, Fletcher was disappointed with the way the competitions went.
“I made that Olympic team when I wasn't expecting it at all,” he said. “I go into this one five years later with a completely different view. I feel like I'm worthy of a medal there.”
He'll be looking to prove himself worthy this weekend in front of a hometown crowd in Park City. He wants to show how complete an athlete he's become in the past year.
“I've seen my jumping grow the most, for sure,” he said. “I've always been a strong cross-country skier, and last year I got to prove it – I was consistently the fastest guy in most races. That takes a ton of stress off me on the jump side and lets me kind of relax knowing that, even with a pretty average jump, I was going to hopefully be top-20 or even top-10.”
Taylor Fletcher and the rest of the U.S. Nordic Combined team and U.S. Ski Jumping teams compete in Olympic qualifiers this Saturday and Sunday at Utah Olympic Park.