|THE TIES THAT BIND- The Steamboat gang from the ’90’s welcomed the young Fletcher brothers.|
Steamboat Winter Sports Club
Steamboat Springs, CO
It was during the winter of 1995 and the car was loaded with an abundance of stuff, and we were headed to Winter Park, Colorado for a competition. This was one of the regular stops on our winter competition events. This was the 1st out of town competition we went to and felt accomplished to move past the Hitchin’ Brothers Wednesday Night Jump series. Hats, gloves, long-johns, food, skis, more food, jumping suits and a large case of AMBITION and DETERMINATION. The cars behind us were filled with the 4 SHORT GUYS , Alex G, and the tall guy Nathan Gerhart.
Off to Winter Park we went for an amazing competition. This was Bryan’s first competition and Taylor was at that time a J-7- yes, Todd Wilson and Gary Crawford invented that for the weekend because he was determined to compete with the big guys and the tears were flowing down the cheeks begging to be able to compete. That will be another story in the future.
We all checked into the YMCA and found our bunks. The rooms were loud, full of wet stinky socks, wet jump suits, jackets, and tired kids. The smell was unbelievable and we all felt right at home with it. This is what was a part of our lives and filled up the days during the week and the weekends. Happy kids morphed into grateful parents with high hopes of a successful weekend. The ski jumps were in great shape thanks to the coaches and crew in Winter Park. The parents lined the hill with bells, hot chocolate, cameras and cold feet. The coaches cheered on each and every kid as if they were their own and held their hands during the good times and bad.
One by one they jumped and flew down the hill almost jumping to the parking lot. As the spectators gathered to watch the show, they were amazed with the jumps from our seasoned soon to be the 2002 Olympic athletes. Little did I know that our legacy was only just beginning. The city kids from Denver gathered around to see the amazing sight of the huge jumps of these athletes. The parents would watch as the more aggressive athletes jumped the hill and screeched to a stop before they hit the railroad tracks located at the base of the ski jumping hill.
The older guys- Todd, Johnny, Billy, Robbie Jones, were the leaders on the hills. Watching these talented athletes only brought smiles and visions of many years to come. Dreams that we all shared in regards to winning that medal and standing on the podium. We all lived it vicariously through our children.
There were cold, wet, tired kids and there wasn’t enough hot chocolate to warm their freezing toes, and hand-me-down jump suits. Bryan was wearing Todd Lodwick’s first suit that was made by his mom and had been passed down to the Jones family and many other athletes. I believe that suit was the 4th generation to Bryan. Bryan wore this proudly and it was binder for success. Wearing the older athletes equipment meant you were primed for success, and it didn’t matter what it was and trust me some of those hats are still in my collectibles. Memories too difficult to part with.
We all left the ski jumping hill for an evening of pizza from the SLOPE restaurant in Winter Park and off to the YMCA for a great night’s sleep. It was such a great thing that the heat at the YMCA was unbelievably hot in the cabins, because all of the wet gear had the opportunity to dry out. Not many of the parents slept very well because of the top of the rock hard beds, the sleeping bags and of course sleeping with one eye open to make sure they were all sound asleep.
The Nordic combined races were the next morning at Devil’s Thumb and it was such a magical place to experience. Devil’s Thumb was heavily wooded and steeped in Nordic tradition. At that time in the SSWSC all of the jumpers competed in Nordic Combined. The group of athletes that travelled to Winter Park was large with many levels of talent out there. We all lined up for the cross country race and it was Bryan’s very first competition away from the incredible Hitchin’ Brothers Wednesday Night Jump series.
I didn’t have the money to purchase or rent a pair of cross-skis for Bryan and I also had no idea what they were. So Bryan did his very 1st race on a pair of borrowed traditional cross-country skis. None of this mattered to Bryan because this was the race of his lifetime. I believe he had maybe a 1K race but it seemed like 10 miles to me. I bundled him up in layers of coats, hats globes and he started off down the beautifully groomed course of Devil’s Thumb. They started him along with the J4’s and the 4 short guys, Alex and Nathan. I stood at the finish line awaiting a glimpse of Bryan but, all I saw was the pack of guys flying down the homestretch and crossing the finish line. No Bryan, not even a sound was heard by my ears.
I started to panic thinking he got lost, fell into a tree well, hurt himself or was collapsed on the side of the course. Todd and Gary were telling me he was just fine and not to worry. Ya right, telling a single mom not to worry doesn’t really work! I will save the worry stories for another time. So I ran the course backwards to find Bryan, post-holing myself into the deep snow on the side of the course. I had a panic in my heart thinking this was the race of my life to find my son. I soon came to a clearing in the woods. This was a sunny turn on the course and there was my son, with a huge smile on his face. ”Hey mom I am doing this, I love this!” My heart jumped with joy and gratitude that my son was smiling happy and on his way to a finish. Bryan asked me to take his coat because he was too hot so he can finish. I helped him get his huge gloves off that belonged to Clint Jones and he started to sing:
My oh my, what a wonderful day
Plenty of sunshine heading my way
Mister bluebird on my shoulder
It’s the truth It’s actual everything is satisfactual
Zip-A-Dee-A wonderful feeling, wonderful day!
I knew at that point that life was great and just seeing the smile on my son’s face told me I also had a reason to sing. As we headed into the home stretch Bryan was joined by the rest of the team who had put their skis on to guide him into the finish line! They jumped all over him and he felt like the World Champion. It was the teamwork of the athletes, parents, coaches and everyone’s hope for the next big event that has been permanently embedded in my heart. My relationships with those parents are still strong today and I miss those days with our kiddos. Little did I realize that on that day, my son would be a champion on the world’s stage. Never did I realize that I would have 2 Olympians but most of all, they would become the role models, the ambitious young men that they are today. That experience was the 1st chapter in my book, and this book will be one that I will cherish forever!
Now off to watch Nordic Combined World Cup live…
Fletchers’ Mom – Penny
|LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE. Taylot and Bryan Fletcher in the mid 90’s.|
|FOLLOWING IN FOOTSTEPS… Bryan (l) and younger brother Taylor (r) Fletcher.|
|FROM YMCA BUNK to PODIUM- Taylor (r) and Bryan (r center) join Todd Lodwick (l) and Billy Demong on the podium after winning bronze in the team event at the 2013 World Championships in Val de Fiemme, ITA.|