Rikako Ikee, Japan swim star, moves up return from leukemia

Rikako Ikee
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Japanese swimmer Rikako Ikee moved up her return to competition from leukemia from October to later this month, according to Japanese media.

Ikee, who was a Tokyo Olympic medal contender before her February 2019 diagnosis, is entered in a 50m freestyle at a meet in Tokyo on Aug. 29, according to the reports.

Ikee, a 20-year-old who was ranked No. 1 in the world in the 100m butterfly in 2018, has repeated that her goal for an Olympic return is the 2024 Paris Games.

“I think my swimming ability has returned to about the level in my first or second year of junior high school,” Ikee said last month, 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.

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

Before her leukemia diagnosis, Ikee won the 100m butterfly at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships, the year’s major international meet. 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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