Nordic Combined Skiing may be one of the oldest Olympic sports, but there ain’t nothin’ traditional about U.S. Olympian Bryan Fletcher. The sport combines cross country skiing and large hill events. (You know, the one where the skiers shoot down a steep slope and then fly with their faces nearly parallel to the ground below. That one.) The 27-year-old Colorado native and son of a ski patrolman has been taking to the slopes ever since he was just three years old. It was also the very same age at which Fletcher was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. After undergoing four years of chemotherapy and suffering a stroke during treatment, Fletcher was deemed cancer-free before the age of 10. All throughout his diagnosis and treatment, Fletcher continued to ski and found great escape in flying down the Rockies.
Two decades worth of dedication, incredible physical achievements, and an Olympic miss have finally lead to Fletcher’s much-deserved spot on the U.S. Team. If you're like me and watching Olympians perform great triumphs of the human spirit make you well up before the race is even called, well, then grab the tissues for Fletcher's premiere.
Along with being one of our nation’s finest skiers, Fletcher is also a student at Westminster College and a fan of cooking, kayaking, camping, and cycling. Yes, I do believe a round of hubba hubbas are in order here. Here are even more reasons why Fletcher is already Gold in our books for the Olympics of Awesome.
He dealt with his cancer in the most excellent way
On his first day of kindergarden, Fletcher didn’t want to be teased for his bald head. According to the Olympian, “I was nervous ... But we all loved [Teenage Mutant] Ninja Turtles, so I painted my head green and dressed up like a Ninja Turtle, and all the kids got a good laugh out of it. It took the heat off and I got to explain what was going on with me a bit. I was never shy about it. I just showed the other kids what it was.”
He’s got some major sibling rivalry to uphold
Fletcher's younger brother Taylor competed in the Vancouver Olympics for the US Nordic Combined team. Both brothers were up for a spot, but Fletcher sprained his ankle before the trials and Taylor was slotted in. Sochi will find Fletcher and Taylor competing for the same medals — though we suspect the sibling “rivalry” will be more along the lines of Rod and Todd than Bart and Lisa.
He’s won oodles of awards
Bryan has scored four top 8 finishes on the most recent World Cup tour and was part of the U.S. team that won the bronze at the 2013 World Championships in Val di Fiemme. He’s also competed in roughly one bajillion championships.
His first jumps in the Olympics were super dangerous
The first time Fletcher touched Olympic dust was when he was TESTING the courses for Olympians to make sure the tracks were safe. Yeesh.
He gives back and volunteers. A lot.
Over the past six years, Fletcher has helped to raise nearly $1 million dollars for cancer research and causes. He’s chaired, organized, and participated in events for Rocky Mountain Candlelighters for Childhood Cancer, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and Team in Training — a fundraiser which entailed a 100-mile bike race. Starting to feel inferior? We are.