Brothers say sibling rivalry helps in push to Pyeongchang Olympics
December 26, 2017
Bryan and Taylor Fletcher — "Team Fletcher" — as Taylor called them, are front runners for the U.S. Nordic Combined team.
The two have trained together for years, and have been involved in similar projects both in athletics and in their daily lives.
"It's like the worst thing ever," Taylor said facetiously during a workout at U.S. Ski and Snowboard's Center of Excellence in Round Valley. "Honestly, (Bryan) is one of the best teammates I could ask for because he understands me, he gets me."
Both say having a sibling on the team helps them compete, but they are by no means alone in the siblings-who-compete category. Over their time on the national team, Taylor said there have been several noteworthy groups of siblings both on U.S. teams and on the teams they compete against, including Ben and Adam Loomis, who were training with the Fletchers that day.
"We had Alex and Davis Miller, Brett and Eric Camerota from Park City, and then we had, on competition, Yahn and Tommy Schmid of Norway, a couple from Germany," Taylor said. "There's always been a good grouping of siblings. Akito and Yoshito Watabe from Japan are probably the most prominent right now of anybody so that's pretty cool. (Everyone's) always trying to be the best sibling duo on the World Cup and it's a goal of ours to always do that for sure."
Taylor estimates the duo is one of about 12 sets of siblings currently competing for spots at the Pyeongchang, South Korea, Winter Games in February. The Fletchers had the honor of representing the U.S. together at the 2014 at the Sochi Winter Games in Russia. Along with Bill Demong and Todd Lodwick, the Fletchers took sixth in the team cross-country race and eighth in team jumping.
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"There's a lot of competition between us because no one wants to get beat by their brother," Taylor said. "But at the same time, it's allowing us to kind of reach new heights and to find a way to work as a team to become the best individual athlete as possible."
They do the same training, and have similar fitness levels (though Bryan's specialty is jumping while Taylor's is racing), and they know how to motivate each other.
"If there's anyone that knows how to get under my skin it's (Bryan)," Taylor said. "So there's definitely times when he uses his strengths to (antagonize me) and I try and not let that affect me as much as possible. I can say the same thing. I (antagonize him) as easily as anyone, but honestly I don't think there's ever been a time where he's tried to do that get an edge on me."
Taylor said the dynamic with his brother helps create a relaxed team atmosphere, where he and Bryan can joke around but still motivate each other.
"Someone always needs to push and go a little harder, jump a little higher," Taylor said. "That competition elevates the performance and we're lucky to have that edge."
Of course, the brotherly rivalry goes back a long way, and was cemented as kids playing video games like Super Smash Brothers and Mario Kart.
"I was always Yoshi," Taylor said, referencing the video game character. "I don't know (who Bryan played as) but he never got Yoshi. I was always the first one to get Yoshi."
Bryan, who was lifting weights behind him, remembered it differently.
He thought about it for a moment.
"Yoshi – or Mario is never a bad choice either," Bryan said. "That's why we're brothers, because we always choose the same guy and fight over it. It was probably the source of a lot of controversy in our house for a while."
For the Loomis brothers, who are also on the Nordic Combined team, their game of choice is Canasta, but the young Wisconsinites have a more relaxed dynamic.
"It adds another aspect of being competitive, but I try and put that aside and treat him like another teammate," Ben said. "We spend a lot of time together but we don't really fight or get sick of each other too much."
Ben said the two try and keep training and family life separate. They live together, eat together, have the same schedules. Both moved to Park City from their home state nearly four years ago to start training with the national team.
"I think we're trying to not think about it too much at this point and sort of recognize what we have," Ben said. "All of that's pretty special in itself."
On Jan. 30, both sets of brothers will compete in the Olympic Team Trials at the Utah Olympic Park. The winner will automatically get a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.
While the Loomises are still young as competitors in the sport — Ben is 19, Adam is 25 — they still have a chance to qualify. For the Fletchers, it will be a chance to return to the Olympics.
"That's a unique opportunity in itself, and it's something we've dreamed about and wanted to do," Taylor said. "Obviously our goal is to both be on the Olympic team. Ultimate dream would be both winning medals. That would be unreal."
He said it may be a long shot, but its something to work towards, even if it means getting on each other's nerves.