Tokyo 2020: Team Bath judoka Megan Fletcher aiming to ‘go out with a bang’ as Olympic debut provides dream conclusion to career
Tokyo 2020 marks the end of an era for Team Bath judoka Megan Fletcher but she says she cannot think of a better climax to a brilliant career than making her long-awaited Olympic debut at the home of judo.
After narrowly missing out on qualification for London 2012 and Rio 2016, Fletcher’s years of dedication to her sport – the past 13 of them with the high-performance squad at Team Bath – will be justly rewarded when she takes to the mat in the legendary Nippon Budokan.
It is also the last competition for her coach Juergen Klinger, who retired from his role as Head of Judo at the University of Bath in January 2020 but has continued to train Fletcher and her brother Ben during a challenging Olympic qualification period extended by a year due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s an emotional time but we’ve had a really wonderful experience together and the journey has been spectacular,” said Fletcher, who will compete in the -70kg weight division on Wednesday 28th July.
“Juergen actually told me the other day he is proud of me and he is a man of few compliments! It’s his last tournament, so it’s really special that it’s an Olympic Games with me and Ben.
“It’s my last tournament too. I’m sad that it’s ending but I also feel ready for the next chapter. It’s the right time and hopefully I will go out with a bang.”
Fletcher, a Commonwealth champion with Team England at Glasgow 2014, will be representing Ireland, her mother’s home country, in Tokyo after transferring allegiances at the start of this Olympiad.
“It was all very amicable with British Judo when Ben and I transferred, which was really nice,” she recalled. “They were setting up a centralised venue which would have meant moving my training base but I wanted to stay here at Team Bath and I’m so glad I did.
“Team Bath has been home for such a long time and everyone has supported my no end. The coaching staff, the physios, strength and conditioning team, psychologists – everyone has been a bubble around me for the past 13 years and I owe so much of my success to them.”
She is one of three Team Bath judoka to have qualified for Tokyo, with the Fletchers being joined in Japan by Prisca Awiti-Alcaraz who will be representing Mexico.
“It just goes to show how high the quality of the players and coaches is here,” said Fletcher, who placed fifth at the World Championships last month. “We all decided we wanted to stay here in Bath because this programme worked for us and it’s paid off.
“We set that goal to qualify for the Games and all three of us did, so it’s a very special moment to all be going there after the journey we have been on together.
“I’m super, super happy and excited to have finally qualified for the Games, it’s been a long time coming and obviously after everything that has happened with Covid. Now it’s about being ready to actually compete on that stage.
“The Budokan is an absolutely stunning arena and has so much Olympic history. Being in Japan for the Olympic Games, you couldn’t have a better venue for judo athletes to compete in so I feel very lucky that it’s the Olympics I qualified for.”