IT was always going to be tough for Reading judo star Ben Fletcher on his Olympic debut, and so it proved in competition in Rio yesterday.

The 24-year-old, who was taught judo at Pinewood Judo Club by the legendary sensei, Don Werner, found himself up against the reigning World junior champion,  Georgia’s Beka Gviniashvili, in the -90kg weight division.

And so it proved when the Georgian, who recently won a Grand Slam tournament in Baku recently, eased past the Briton in the first round. Gviniashvili went on to reach the quarter-finals before bowing out.

Fletcher, who used to attend Emmbrook School, and whose sister Megan competed at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, trains at the University of Bath.

Before yesterday's competition, his coach described Fletcher as in the best shape of his career, physically and mentally, as he prepared to make his Olympic entrance.

Juergen Klinger, his long-term coach at the University of Bath Sports Training Village dojo, said he had spoken to Fletcher on the phone before the competition, discussing tactics ahead of the match, warning that Gviniashvili is the sort of opponent who is explosive, strong and direct.

Speaking before the match, Klinger said: "There are no easy draws, especially in this weight class where there are so many players who could win a medal, and anything can happen in this sport.

“Ben is someone who has beaten the very best, world champions and world medallists.

"He is mentally strong and, having spoken to him, he is also so relaxed and really looking forward to the competition. He is very well prepared and feels in really good shape, at the maximum of his strength levels.

“Ben does judo for the challenge, he thrives on that, and he is a very dangerous opponent for the established judoka as he cannot lose, there is no expectation on him.”