Swimmers at worlds pay tribute to Japanese star with leukemia

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GWANGJU, South Korea (AP) — After receiving their medals, all three world swimming championships 100m butterfly medalists gathered on the top podium spot and raised their palms to the crowd, displaying a message to ailing 19-year-old Japanese swimmer Rikako Ikee.

“Rikako never give up” it read, with hearts decorating their palms. Swedish silver medalist Sarah Sjostrom came up with the idea and was joined by surprise Canadian gold medalist Maggie MacNeil, a rising sophomore at Michigan, and Australian bronze medalist Emma McKeon.

Ikee, Japanese’s best female swimmer, announced in February that she has leukemia.

She was the world junior champion in the 100m fly and had the fastest time in the world last year. She is aiming to return in time to compete in the Tokyo Olympics.

“We’re hoping this will show that we’re supporting her and we’re here if she needs anything,” MacNeil said.

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