KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Among the seven sets of siblings on the American team at the Sochi Olympics, no one likely has a more a poignant reason for following a brother or sister into a sport than Taylor Fletcher.
He watched what Nordic combined — which features ski jumping and cross-country skiing — had done to lift the spirits of his older brother Bryan during his seven-year battle against acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Diagnosed at the age of 3, Bryan Fletcher took up the sport with their mother's blessing the following year.
"Ski jumping and cross-country were the things he did to have fun and to forget the pain and hardships he was experiencing through chemotherapy," Taylor Fletcher told The Associated Press. "I saw that he was having a ton of fun with it, what it did for him, and he was also so supportive of me."
Bryan Fletcher, 27 and four years older than Taylor, agreed that Nordic combined got his mind off the treatments for leukemia, which he eventually beat by the time he was 10. In between, he had a stroke and doctors gave him only had a 15 percent chance of survival.
"For me it was a distraction for what I was going through at the time," Bryan Fletcher said. "It was very much my sport, my life. I basically would do everything the doctors would ask just so I could get back to skiing faster. I was totally carefree when I was on the slopes and hopefully that attitude carried over all the time to Taylor."
The Fletcher brothers, cross-country ski specialists, hope to improve in Tuesday's large hill gold final from their finishes in last week's normal hill event when Bryan was 26th and Taylor 33rd.
Bryan Fletcher was 41st in ski jumping but ranked 19th in the cross-country portion to move up in the field. Taylor did similar, finishing 46th in jumping before being the 11th-best skier.