It was a glory weekend on home soil for USA Nordic with their very own Tara Geraghty-Moats and Taylor Fletcher taking three our of four victories and a second place. For both athletes, the weekend was deeply meaningful in different ways.
Having to become 25 years of age before being able to pursue the sport that you actually want to be pursuing on an international level certainly is not your run-of-the-mill athlete biography, nor is competing internationally in three other disciplines on the way. It is reality for Tara Geraghty-Moats, who had to wait a long time to unite her favourite sports of ski jumping and cross-country skiing and honed her skills in cross-country skiing, biathlon and on the Ladies’ Ski Jumping World Cup tour, in which she participates this winter as well.
The past weekend in Steamboat Springs marks the first home competition in her sport for Geraghty-Moats, and even though she grew up quite a distance away in Vermont, the weekend was special to her:
"It's a dream come true to race Nordic Combined on home soil. I'm proud of how I stuck to my plan and had good results both days. I’m proud of my accomplishments this weekend but I’m just as proud of all the women competitors who skied their hearts out, and the people, who chose to support them.”
With two convincing performances on the jumping hill and especially on the cross-country track, Geraghty-Moats leads the way in this year’s Nordic Combined Continental Cup rankings but also maybe more importantly as a role model and in setting the bar high for the group of younger athletes following in her footsteps.
For 28-year-old Taylor Fletcher, the weekend was important in another respect. Fletcher returned to compete in his hometown for the first time since 2006. With a victory and second place after an intense fight with Austria’s Paul Gerstgraser, Fletcher delighted the home crowd and inspired the many young Nordic Combined athletes who follow in his wake.
Especially given the fact that the World Cup weekend in Lillehammer was a tough one for Fletcher, the success in the Continental Cup should have been balm on his wounds. Strong skier Fletcher actually nailed the jump in the 5 km event in Lillehammer but was paradoxically not able to get his performance across on the skinny skis that weekend.
In Steamboat, Fletcher returned to his signature tour-de-force rides through large parts of the field and battled to the top of the podium. He himself attributes not a small part of his success to his late father, Timothy Fletcher, who passed away from ALS earlier this year.
"Today was a great day. It was so much fun competing at home for the first time in so long. It brings me back to my childhood memories at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. I had a decent jump and a much better race to bring home the victory. Today was for my parents. My father was with me today all the time. He would have been so proud and that was motivating."