Judoka Ben Fletcher closes in on Rio 2016 place after highest-ever finish at European Championships

25 April 2016

Team Bath judoka Ben Fletcher is back in the automatic qualification places for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games after producing his best result at a senior major championships to date.

The 24-year-old’s seventh-placed finish at the European Judo Championships in Kazan, Russia on Saturday lifted him back up to 29th in the Olympic qualification rankings for the -100kg weight category.

With just one month of the two-year qualification period remaining and no more major tournaments taking place, Fletcher’s coach Juergen Klinger believes a Team GB place is almost secure.

“I would say Ben is 95 per cent qualified, especially as there are two European continental quota places if he does slip out of the automatic positions,” said Klinger.

“We want to make sure we are safe, though, so we are entering Grand Prix tournaments in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan next month. Hopefully that will be enough.”

Klinger was pleased overall with Fletcher’s performance at the Europeans but felt he could have challenged for a medal and is looking for more consistency should he compete in Rio.

“Ben beat the 2013 World Champion from Azerbaijan [Elkhan Mammadov] in the second round but then lost to someone he has beaten at the last two tournaments [Estonia’s Grigori Minaskin], which was frustrating,” said Klinger.

“It is not the first time that Ben has beaten a former World Champion and it proved once again that he is good enough to beat anyone in the world, he is so strong mentally.

“What we have to do now is develop his performance so he can have four or five of these strong fights during the day. If he finds that consistency, he can definitely win a medal this summer.

“I hope the British Judo Federation will help us to enable that with regards to pre-Olympic training camps.”

There was disappointment for one of Klinger’s former judoka at the Europeans as University of Bath Sports Performance graduate Gemma Gibbons was beaten in the -78kg bronze-medal contest by fellow Brit Natalie Powell.

Both Powell and London 2012 silver-medallist Gibbons are in the automatic qualification positions for Rio but there is only one weight-division place at the Games per nation, with the higher-ranked Powell currently on course for the British berth.

Partners and Suppliers