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Fletcher eyes Olympic spot

Pushing hard: Fletcher believes his experiences at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow will help him in Toronto

Julian Fletcher hopes the stiff swimming competition at the Pan Am Games will push him to his limits as he attempts to qualify for the Rio Olympics.

Fletcher, who competes in the 100 and 200 metres breaststroke, believes he is better equipped to deal with the pressure of performing in Toronto, having represented Bermuda at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last summer.

He expects the standard at the Games to be similar to Glasgow, where he reached the semi-finals in the 100, and has set his sights on reaching the finals in both his events.

“I’d like to make the qualifying time for the Olympics, that’s my main goal,” Fletcher said. “I’ll also be looking for personal bests in the 100 and 200.

“Reaching the semi-finals at the Commonwealth Games will definitely help me in Toronto. I think I’ll have the confidence to go for the finals this time.

“There will be a lot of great swimmers from the United States and the Latin American countries, but it’s a challenge I’m more than willing to tackle.”

Fletcher had the honour of carrying Bermuda’s flag in front of 40,000 spectators at the Rogers Centre during the Athletes’ Parade of the opening ceremony.

Although Fletcher was jangling with nerves as he led out Bermuda’s athletes and officials, he said he was also beaming with pride.

“It was amazing to walk into a roaring crowd as one of the first teams, and I was humbled to be able to carry the flag in front of Bermuda’s most talented athletes,” he said.

“I held it high for the athletes that have achieved so much, from such a small island, on the world level.

“I was extremely proud to bear our flag with honour and deep down had a huge smile, although I was very nervous that I might trip and fall right on my face!”

The 24-year-old has spent the past ten months training with the University of Southern California’s Elite Team under the guidance of Dave Salo, who is regarded as one of the best breaststroke coaches in the world.

He believes the experience of training day in, day out alongside world-class swimmers has given him the belief to perform at the international level.

“The change has been huge for me in terms of my technique and how hard I train now,” said Fletcher, who graduated from the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, last year.

“I’m a lot more focused on the finer details than I used to be. Being in an elite programme and swimming against guys who are winning medals at these events has really helped build my confidence.

“Knowing that I’m training the same amount as these guys and keeping up with them has inspired me to push forward in Toronto.

“It’s been tough but I think I’ve improved a lot since the move.”

Fletcher, who returned to the Island for last month’s Validus Bermuda National Championships at the Aquatics Centre, has enjoyed an encouraging season, setting a national record in the 200 at the Arena Pro Series Mesa in Arizona in March in 2min 18.77sec.

He will also compete at this month’s Fina World Championships in Kazan, Russia, along with Bermuda’s Rebecca Heyliger, 23, who studies at the University of Southern California.

Fletcher will compete tomorrow in the 200 and Friday in the 100.

The events will be held at the Pan Am Aquatics Centre at the University of Toronto Scarborough.