Solid Gold Moms: Steamboat Olympians grew up dreaming of the Games
Steamboat Springs has produced more Winter Olympic athletes than any other city in the United States. So the idea of your kid becoming an Olympian is probably a bit more realistic at Steamboat than anywhere else, noted Penny Fletcher.
For Fletcher, it happened twice when his two sons, Bryan and Taylor Fletcher, competed as Nordic combined athletes in multiple Olympics (2014 and 2018 for Bryan and 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022 for Taylor).
Fletcher – along with Heidi Berend and Nancy Good – are all mothers of Olympians in Nordic combined. And while their journeys all look different, they all started in the same place: on Howelsen Hill.
“Ben wanted to be on skis when he was 2 years old,” recalls Heidi Berend. “He clung to the house with them. His first word was ‘melmet’ for helmet.
Likewise, Fletcher remembers literally dragging Bryan and Taylor off the hill after Wednesday night’s Hitchens Brothers series of jumps.
“At age 4, Taylor would follow me around the grocery store in ski jumping position,” Penny Fletcher said.
With sons who lived for skiing and jumping, all mothers remembered jumps from the roof of their house, homemade jumps in the garden and, ultimately, the realization that their child could reach the highest level of sport. and become an Olympian.
It was a journey filled with exhilarating highs and excruciating lows. It was often not the agonizing competition that mothers worried about, but what it would be like for their child to lose, not to qualify, not to make the team, to be outdone by someone. another. In Fletcher’s case, the passing could be done by a brother.
“When you have two sons who participate in the same sport, you always have one who doesn’t do as well as the other on any given day,” she said.
Her happiest days, then, were when she got to watch them in a two-man or four-man team event, competing with each other rather than against.
As the Fletcher brothers grew up at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, then went on to Team USA and eventually to multiple Olympics, the competition was tough.
“As they got older, they were extremely competitive, and as a mother I would freak out because one was always beating the other,” Fletcher said. “I was going home and had these discussions lined up in my head, but they had already forgotten about it. Their competition was on the course and their love as brothers was everywhere else.
Even without family competition, there were still concerns. From the age of 9, Ben Berend set his sights on the Olympics. Intuitively understanding that he had a better chance of qualifying for the Olympics as a Nordic combined athlete, his life revolved around nothing but that.
“Ben was very independent,” his mother said. “I was really worried that he would exhaust himself or that he would regret having done nothing else in life but eat and sleep in a Nordic suit. Every year I checked with him that it was still his passion, always what he wanted to do, and every year he persisted. My biggest worry was that he was not living a normal life and he would regret it; he was so mono-focused.
Eventually, however, the Olympic dreams came true and in 2018 the three mothers found themselves cheering on their sons in Pyeongchang, South Korea. It was an experience they will never forget. To put it simply, said Nancy Good, “we really had a blast.”
Now, four years later, Fletcher will see a son (Taylor) in the 2022 games and Good will be cheering on Jasper. Bryan and Ben have since retired, settled into a new kind of normal life. What remains of almost a lifetime of training and competition for these men now in their 20s and 30s is the resilience, commitment and dedication that made them the great athletes they are. – and the support of their mothers.
“Honestly, when you have a little kid telling you his dream is to go to the Olympics, you can’t close the dream. You support him, all the time asking yourself, ‘Are you prepare to fail?” Berend said. “But it wasn’t my dream, so we just showed up for him.”
It turned out that all those early mornings and cold evenings on Howelsen Hill were worth it and will always be a part of life.
“One time I was driving down 9th Street, and Jasper’s trainer, Todd Wilson, called me and said, ‘Stop! Jasper is about to come out of 90 for the first time’ , Good recalled. “So I stopped on the 9th and watched him jump. I think about it almost every time I drive downtown.
Sophie Dingle is a writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today. It can be reached via the editor.