Megan Fletcher suffered a heartbreaking defeat in the dying seconds of her first Olympic judo match in Tokyo today, the 31-year-old revealing afterwards that she will likely now retire from the sport.
“I think this is my last competition,” she said, the emotions running visibly high. “I am very proud of myself; I have had a great career.”
Fletcher, ranked 20th in the world, had gone into her round-of-32 contest in the women’s 70kg category hopeful of advancing against Austria’s Michaela Polleres, who was ranked number eight in the world.
The Berkshire native was valiant throughout and appeared to have victory within her grasp entering the final seconds before Polleres landed a waza-ari move to snatch victory with just three seconds remaining.
“I tried to close the space and came in high, which is somewhere where she is very strong and she caught me in those last final few seconds,” said Fletcher. “It was always going to be a really hard contest, it was a rematch from the bronze medal (match) at the World Championships six weeks ago. All of our career we have been having head-to-head fights. You have to be in the best position that you can, someone has to win and someone has to lose. It wasn’t meant to be today.”
Fletcher is only the second woman to represent Ireland in Olympic judo after Lisa Kearney in 2012 and she took a break from teaching geography in recent years to chase the Olympic dream.
Raised in Wokingham, Berkshire, her mother Alma is from Bruff, Co Limerick, and Fletcher first competed for Ireland in 2017, winning bronze at the European Open in Belgrade. She had previously won bronze at the European Cadet Championship in 2005 and in 2019 she made the podium at the Marrakech, Tel Aviv and Montreal Grand Prix events and was seventh at the European Games in Minsk.
Her younger brother Ben will also compete in Tokyo, opening his campaign in the 100kg men’s category tomorrow.
“It is great for our family,” said Megan. “It was really hard watching Ben in Rio when I didn’t make it myself. I am very proud of him and will cheer him on tomorrow.”