Big trees grow slowly.
Those four simple words have become a personal mantra of sorts for U.S. Nordic combined athlete Bryan Fletcher.
On the slopes, of course, as Fletcher’s love of skiing has sprouted from a four-year-old’s obsession to a celebrated Olympic career.
But off the slopes, the creed has a much deeper-rooted meaning for the 31 year old.
Fletcher was diagnosed with leukemia at four years old, but used his passion for ski jumping to keep his mind off of his chemotherapy sessions.
By age eight, Fletcher’s cancer had gone into remission.
Eventually, Bryan made the transition to Nordic combined – a mix of ski jumping and cross country. And like all younger siblings, little brother Taylor soon followed in his tracks.
Not long after, the brothers had the look of Olympians. With one spot remaining on the U.S. team for the 2010 Vancouver Games, it looked like Bryan had the spot locked up. That was until an ankle injury hampered him during the lead up to the Games, opening the door for Taylor to make his Olympic debut.
But Bryan remained involved. Chosen as a fore jumper to test the course’s readiness, Bryan spent the competition within reach of his dream, while mentally miles away, thinking “what if?”
That empty feeling inspired Bryan.
Four years later in Sochi, it was Bryan’s turn to make his Olympic debut … with his younger brother -- and fiercest competitor -- by his side. The duo experienced their most success on the large hill, with Taylor finishing 20th and Bryan right behind at 22nd.
?A year earlier, at the 2013 world championships, Bryan and Taylor took the podium together as the U.S. men captured a bronze medal. After all the brothers had been through, both professionally and personally, Taylor described it as one of the proudest moments of his life.
The Fletchers will renew their rivalry as they open their PyeongChang schedule on Wednesday, Feb. 14 at 1 a.m. ET in the men’s individual normal hill competition.