Road To The Olympic Games

Aquatics

Rikako Ikee qualifies for Tokyo Olympic after leukemia treatment

Japanese swimmer Rikako Ikee qualified for the Tokyo Olympics just two years after she was diagnosed with leukemia. She was overcome with tears in the water after swimming to a time of 57.77 seconds in the 100-metre butterfly at Japan's national championships held at the new swimming venue for the Tokyo Olympics. That qualified her for a place in the medley relay.

Japanese star was among the favourites in several Olympic races before illness

Swimmer Rikako Ikee, shown in this file photo, has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics this summer. The 20-year-old returned to competition in August of 2020 after being treated for leukemia. (Issei Kato/Reuters/File)

Japanese swimmer Rikako Ikee has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics just two years after she was diagnosed with leukemia.

She swam a time of 57.77 seconds in the 100-metre butterfly at Japan's national championships on Sunday, held at the new swimming venue for the Tokyo Olympics. That qualified her for a place in the medley relay.

She was overcome with tears in the water after the race, and could barely speak out of the water later, sniffling and crying at the same time. She slammed her left arm against the water when she realized she'd won.

"I was not expecting to win the 100 metres at all, and I was feeling far less confident than during the Olympic qualifiers five years ago," she said.

"I thought I wouldn't be able to win for a long time. But I trained hard to win. And, in the end, I came into the race telling myself I'm back. And so I feel that, even if you go through suffering and pain, your hard work will always be rewarded."

WATCH | Rikako Ikee honoured by fellow swimmers:

Medallists show support for swimmer battling leukemia

Sports

2 years ago
0:30
Gold medallist Maggie Mac Neil of Canada and the 2 other medallists of the women's 100m butterfly pay tribute to Rikako Ikee of Japan who revealed her leukemia diagnosis earlier this year. 0:30

The 20-year-old Ikee returned to the pool about a year ago but had said her goal was only to prepare for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. She had downplayed her chances for her home Olympics.

She would have been among the favourites in several Olympic races in Tokyo races if she had not fallen ill and faced setbacks.

"I wanted to try to feel true happiness just being here," she added. "My teammates cheered me on, sending me off [to the race]. And so I am now filled with happiness."

Ikee won six gold medals in 2018 at the Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, which included the 50 and 100-metre freestyle, and the 50 and 100-metre butterfly. She also won gold in two relays, and added two silvers.

Her time in winning the 100-metre butterfly in Jakarta was 56.08 seconds, the fastest of the season. She was closing in on the world record held by Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden of 55.48. It remains the world-record time.

She finished sixth in the 100-meter butterfly in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

WATCH | Ikee considered Japan's next swimming superstar:

Rikako Ikee: Japan's next swimming superstar

Sports

3 years ago
1:09
18-year-old swimming phenom Rikako Ikee has been making waves in the swimming universe since she was fifteen. Competing in the 50, 100 and 200 metre freestyle events, she is a name to look out for ahead of Tokyo 2020. 1:09

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