Ireland’s judo hopeful Ben Fletcher had his Olympics come to a swift end following his opening round-of-32 fight in Tokyo today, the 29-year-old acquitting himself well in his first fight since suffering a broken leg in February.
A waza-ari score by his rival, Uzbekistan’s Mukhammadkarim Khurranov, in the second minute of the 100kg fight proved decisive and ensured the verdict went the way of the 2020 Judo Grand Slam gold medallist.
“He managed to score so he could then defend that,” said Fletcher. “He played it smart, he got a good score. It is difficult as there are all the what-ifs but at the end of the day, I lost. You can analyse it as much as you want but that’s the end result.”
Fletcher pushed the boundaries on the build-up to be able to compete at his second Olympics, having represented Great Britain in Rio in 2016.
“It was always going to be touch and go to get here,” he said. “I came back from an injury late and preparation went as good as it could, it is always difficult with judo as a lot of it is to do with feel, it’s not like, run this time, lift this weight. We did everything we could given the time and unfortunately it wasn’t enough. It is one of those things that if it was any other tournament you probably wouldn’t come back from injury for it but it is the Olympic Games and there is a lot of time to qualify for this and a lot of effort.”
His older sister Megan competed in the women’s 70kg event a day earlier, the 31-year-old announcing after her defeat that she will likely now walk away from the sport. It will remain a source of pride for both to have competed at the same Games.
“It is very special for the two of us to qualify together,” said Ben. “It is really nice for our family as well, obviously we would have liked for it to have gone differently, but it is a big achievement to even be here, a big deal for Ireland and for us to be able to represent our family in Ireland and our family in Bruff, Limerick.
“The Olympic Games is the end of a process and the end of something you have been working towards for a long time. I learned a long time ago that if you don’t enjoy it along the way, it is pretty pointless doing it. You can’t just wait for the moment for when it all happens and comes together, because it probably won’t. For the vast majority of people, you get more bad days than good, so you have to enjoy the little wins along the way.”
Fletcher revealed that his own future remains up in the air, with three years until the Paris Olympics in 2024.
“I’m 29, as a heavyweight I could go on again, but it is weighing up all the time if I am getting better or not,” he said. “I don’t want to carry on doing this if I am not improving and with Covid and breaking my leg it has been difficult. I will be 30 before you know if and then we just have to wait and see.”