A CHIPPING Sodbury School teacher is hoping to represent Great Britain at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Megan Fletcher is currently running her PGCE in Geography alongside judo training and narrowly missed out on a place at London 2012 in the -70kg category to Sally Conway, who grew up in Thornbury.
The 23-year-old is using that heartbreak as her motivation to reach Rio and will put her fledgling teaching career on hold in the summer to chase her dream.
“I want to qualify for Rio and there is no way I could do both at the same time,” said Reading-born Fletcher, who joined Chipping Sodbury School on a long placement at the start of this year.
The Team Bath member has won eight international tournaments and claimed silver in a World Cup event in Rome last September, jumping 30 places in the world rankings over the last year to reach her current position of number 45.
However, qualifying for 2016 will be harder for British players than last year as there is one automatic qualifier in each category for the host nation, and with only one spot up for grabs per country Fletcher will have to climb above Conway and into the world’s top 14 to be assured of a place.
After missing out on the Olympics last year, Fletcher was so distraught that she couldn’t face watching the Games and instead went on holiday to Majorca with her parents and younger brother Ben, who also suffered the disappointment of being omitted from the men’s -90kg judo squad.
“It’s taken a long time to get over it and it makes you want it more next time, 100 per cent,” said Fletcher.
“Being a home Games made it much worse. I put everything into it but sometimes it doesn’t work out how you want.
“I didn’t really want to watch it and I went on holiday. Ben is strong headed and he probably didn’t need that but I did.”
While Fletcher managed to avoid most of the Olympics, she made an effort to keep up to date with the progress of close pal Gemma Gibbons, who won silver in the -78kg category and paid tribute to her mum – who died of leukaemia in 2004 – by mouthing the words ‘I love you mum’ while looking towards the heavens in one of the most iconic moment of the Games after her semi-final victory.
The pair were closely matched at -70kg before Gibbons moved up a weight last year, and that has given Fletcher extra belief.
“I think it confirms the level you are at,” she said.
“I’m not that confident in my ability, but it was so close in our competitions at -70kg and if she can get an Olympic medal it’s positive for me to see.
“Anything is possible and she’s an inspiration. I wouldn’t have wished it for anybody else more.”
With Conway injured, Fletcher won gold at the British Championships for the first time in Sheffield last month, while Ben, who she lives with in Bath, took the men’s -100kg title.
She said: “I was happy. It was a job that had to be done because Sally wasn’t fighting so it was a good way to start the year.”
Fletcher, who finished seventh in a London 2012 test event at the ExCel in December 2011, is now looking ahead to the European Championships in Hungary this April and what she hopes to be a dress rehearsal for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro with the World Championships being held there in September.
Despite the competitive rivalry with Conway, with only one of them likely to go to Rio 2016, the pair get on well.
“We go away all the time together,” said Fletcher. “We get on fine and there’s no animosity.”