Rikako Ikee
AP

Tokyo 2020 medal contender Rikako Ikee has leukemia

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TOKYO (AP) — Japanese swimming star Rikako Ikee has been diagnosed with leukemia less than 18 months before the Olympics in Tokyo.

The 18-year-old Ikee won six gold medals at the Asian Games in Jakarta last year and was tipped to be one of the faces of the 2020 Olympics in her home country.

She posted on her verified Twitter account Tuesday that her illness surfaced when she got tests after returning from a training trip to Australia.

“I still can’t believe it, and I am in a state of confusion,” she wrote.

Officials of the Japan Swimming Federation called a news conference and said Ikee was at a hospital being treated.

Ikee expressed hopes for recovery but acknowledged she could not compete for a while.

“I will take some days off for now and focus on my treatment to do my utmost so that I can show you as soon as possible an even more powerful Rikako Ikee,” she said.

Ikee is among the world’s best in the 100-meter butterfly, an event where she is close to breaking the world record of 55.48 seconds held by Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden. She swam 56.08 last year and talked about being able to break that mark.

“If everything goes well, I think I will be able to set the world record,” she told The Associated Press in an interview after being selected as MVP at the Asian Games.

Her other top race is the 200-meter freestyle.

Ikee wrote optimistically on Twitter about her chance for a recovery.

“It is a sickness for which there is recovery with proper treatment,” she said. “It would make me happy if you would all continue to warmly watch over me.”

Ikee has been a highly regarded junior swimmer and finished sixth in the 100-fly almost three years ago in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

IOC group proposes Olympic ‘host’ can be multiple countries

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International Olympic Committee members will decide next month whether to tweak the definition of an Olympic host to make it clear that it does not necessarily refer to a single city but can also mean multiple cities, regions and even countries, IOC President Thomas Bach said Wednesday.

“It’s not an encouragement to spread the Games out as much as possible,” Bach said in announcing the IOC’s executive board approved the measure. “It may be preferable to have a region as a signatory or an additional signatory of the host city contract rather than just a city, and therefore, we wanted to enjoy this flexibility. This, on the other hand, does not change our vision, our request and our focus on having not only an Olympic Village, but to have an Olympic center.”

It’s one of six proposed changes by a working group chaired by Australian IOC member John Coates to examine the bid process. Another is to make the timing of Olympic host city elections more flexible. Typically, hosts are elected seven years before the Games, though two years ago an exception was made in the double awarding of the 2024 and 2028 Games to Paris and Los Angeles.

Bach repeated that the proposals are “to avoid producing too many losers as we had it in the past candidature procedures.”

The IOC previously said in 2014, in announcing Agenda 2020, that it “will allow events held outside the host city or, in exceptional cases, outside the host country, notably for reasons of geography and sustainability.”

This shift manifests in Stockholm’s 2026 Winter Olympic bid plan to have sliding sports in Sigulda, Latvia, home of the nearest existing track for bobsled, luge and skeleton, rather than building a costly new track in Sweden.

IOC members will vote to choose the 2026 Winter Games host next month. The finalists are Stockholm and a joint Italian bid of Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, after five other potential candidates were dropped for various reasons.

There is precedent for events held far from the Olympic host city. In 1956, Melbourne held the Summer Games and had equestrian events in Stockholm due to quarantine laws in Australia. Similarly, equestrian at the 2008 Beijing Games was held in Hong Kong.

Soccer matches are often held in cities across the host country. Recent Winter Olympics have had mountain events in a different city or area than arena events.

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IOC board recommends AIBA suspension, boxing stays in Olympics

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The International Olympic Committee executive board recommended that AIBA has its recognition as boxing’s international federation suspended but that the sport remains on the Olympic program at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

An IOC decision on the recommendation will be made next month. The IOC created a group to organize 2020 Olympic boxing qualifying and competition if AIBA will not be allowed to run it.

“We want to ensure that the athletes can live their dream and participate in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 while drawing the necessary consequences for AIBA,” IOC president Thomas Bach said in a press release. “At the same time, we offer a pathway back to lifting the suspension, but there needs to be further fundamental change.”

The IOC said in October that boxing’s place in the Olympics was “under threat” after being introduced at the 1904 St. Louis Games and held at every Games since except Stockholm 1912.

In November, the IOC ordered an inquiry into AIBA, which has been in financial turmoil, faced claims of fixed bouts at the Rio Games and elected a president linked to organized crime.

That president, Uzbek Gafur Rakhimov, stepped aside in March to let an interim leader take charge but said he was not resigning. Rakhimov is on a U.S. Treasury Department sanctions list for suspected links to an organized crime group in former Soviet Union republics involved in heroin trafficking. He denies any wrongdoing.

“Serious governance issues remain, including breaches of the Olympic Charter and the IOC Code of Ethics regarding good governance and ethics, leading to serious reputational, legal and financial risks for the IOC, the Olympic Movement and its stakeholders,” the inquiry committee concluded. “AIBA has been unable to demonstrate a sustainable and fair management of refereeing and judging processes and decisions, increasing the lack of confidence that athletes can have in fair competitions.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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