Rikako Ikee, Japan swim star, eyes competition return from leukemia

Rikako Ikee
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Japanese swimmer Rikako Ikee reportedly set a goal to return to swimming competition in October from a February 2019 leukemia diagnosis.

“I think my swimming ability has returned to about the level in my first or second year of junior high school,” Ikee, who turns 20 on Saturday, said Thursday, according to a Kyodo News translation. “My aspiration as a 20-year-old is to compete in some kind of event, get an accurate read on my current status, and then find more and more ways to get stronger.”

Ikee, Japan’s premier female swimmer in 2017 and 2018, was discharged after a 10-month hospitalization in December. She set a goal then of competing in the 2024 Paris Olympics. The Tokyo Games have since been postponed to 2021, but she said Thursday that 2024 remains the intention, according to Japanese media.

“I’m aiming for 2024,” Ikee said, according to Kyodo. “I’m hoping to build a solid foundation since I’m no longer tied down by next year’s Olympics.”

Ikee reportedly returned to the pool in March and has been training four times a week in hopes of competing this fall, should meets be held amid the current coronavirus pandemic.

Before her leukemia diagnosis, Ikee won the 100m butterfly at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships, the year’s major international meet, clocking the fastest time in the world for the year. She also took silver in the 200m freestyle ahead of Katie Ledecky. She later earned six golds, including four in individual events, at the Asian Games.

Ikee finished fifth in the 100m butterfly as a 16-year-old at the Rio Olympics.

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