THINK about this for a second.

You dedicate your life to sailing with the hope of becoming an Olympic medallist.

You qualify for your first Olympics in 2016 and finish sixth – three places off bronze.

Then, in the current Olympic cycle, you team up with your one-time rival and win more than 20 medals in World Cup races.

Excited yet? Can you dare to dream of gold in Enoshima?

Those are some of the thoughts racing through the mind of Portland-based Dylan Fletcher as he sits in the airport ready to fly to Tokyo.

He will compete in the 49er class along with fellow Portland resident Stuart Bithell, who took silver when partnered with Luke Patience at London 2012 in the 470 category.

The 2020 Olympics will finally go ahead, without spectators, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to sweep across the globe.

“It’s been a long road but to finally be here, I’m literally buzzing,” Fletcher, 33, told Echosport.

READ MORE: The 15 sailors representing Team GB at Tokyo

“It’s a mix of relief and excitement.

“There’s certainly a high level of uncertainty.

“We’re incredibly lucky to have a squad that have been able to train out at Weymouth & Portland Sailing Academy, which has been amazing.

“Given the sort of restrictions we’ve had in the UK there’s no doubt that we were a little more nervous than normal of where we slotted in.

“We did a regatta in Spain a couple of weeks ago and got on the podium there.

“We’re quite happy with where we’re at.

“For sure, it is an odd Games and it is harder to predict where you’re at relative to other people.”

Dorset Echo: Fletcher, left, and Stuart Bithell will hope to upgrade these silvers to gold Picture: PEDRO MARTINEZ/SAILING ENERGY/WORLD SAILINGFletcher, left, and Stuart Bithell will hope to upgrade these silvers to gold Picture: PEDRO MARTINEZ/SAILING ENERGY/WORLD SAILING

After vying against each other for Team GB selection, Fletcher and Bithell joined forces and in 2017 won both the World and European Championships, rising to number one in the world.

Finishing consistently on the podium has given Fletcher sufficient optimism to believe gold is within the duo’s grasp.

“We both said we’d be happy if we came away with a medal but we’re obviously trying to look for gold,” he said.

“We think we do have that in us. We’ve got to get a few things right and sail very well.

“We’ve medalled at 22 regattas that we’ve fully competed in. Out of everyone in Team GB that’s part of sailing, we’re normally one of the more likely people to medal.

“Hopefully we’ll take that into the Games and come away with what we’re after.”

Fletcher and Bithell may not be household names but their success since Rio 2016 will thrust them into the limelight – and the extra pressure that comes with it.

“There’s no doubt that the pressure you feel is not just the personal pressure, and Team GB, but it’s the funding,” he revealed.

“It’s important for the sailing team to come away as being the most successful sailing nation. That ultimately is now up to us to secure the funding for the next cycle.

“There’s a lot of pressure but Stu and I really thrive off that. We certainly find we’re at our best when we’re feeling like there’s something on the line.”

But what is it like to compete at an Olympic Games?

“It’s impossible to put into words how it makes you feel,” Fletcher said.

“The thing that’s odd for us is that you live away from the limelight and then once every four, or five years as this is, you’re in the media spotlight.

“You’ve got the whole country behind you. You’ve never met these people.

“They don’t necessarily know who you are but the fact that you’ve got a Team GB t-shirt on they’re all supporting you.

“It’s incredible, that feeling. You really do notice it.

“Every time we put our sails up and they’ve got the Union Jack on and the Olympic rings you feel proud, lucky and privileged to just be a part of Team GB.”

Fletcher and Bithell line up in their first 49er race at 4am BST on Tuesday, July 27.

For Team GB fans wishing to brave the early morning, Fletcher had this message.

“It will be worth it,” he insists.

“The footage on the sailing is getting better and better and sailing seems in a great place.

“Tune in and just enjoy it – a later lie-in the next day!”