Rikako Ikee wins again at Japan Swim Trials, set to compete on first day of Tokyo Olympics

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Rikako Ikee, the Japanese swim star who spent 10 months hospitalized for leukemia in 2019, won her second event of her nation’s Olympic Trials and is now set to splash on the first full day of competition of the Tokyo Games.

Ikee won the 100m freestyle at trials, four days after winning the 100m butterfly. Her winning time in the 100m free on Thursday — 53.98 seconds — did not meet her federation’s automatic qualifying time to race the individual 100m free at the Olympics (53.31, the time required to make the 2019 World Championships final), but she is qualified for the 4x100m free relay.

“I’m happy to have come below 54 seconds, but I wanted a little faster time, honestly speaking,” Ikee said, according to Kyodo News. “This event was all about getting in the top four and bettering the required standard.”

The Olympic Opening Ceremony is July 23. Ikee is a prime candidate for a significant role (flag bearer, oath taker, cauldron lighter) if she takes part, though the world’s top swimmers often are absent if they’re competing on the first weekend of the Games.

The 4x100m free preliminary heats are the night of July 24. The eight-nation final is the morning of July 25. Japan’s best-ever Olympic finish in the event is fifth.

On Sunday at trials, Ikee won the 100m butterfly in 57.77 seconds, earning a medley relay spot. Like in the 100m free, no swimmer met the federation’s automatic qualifying time for an individual Olympic 100m fly place (57.10, the cutoff to make the 2019 Worlds final).

Ikee is also expected to swim the 50m freestyle later this week at trials.

Ikee was a Tokyo Olympic medal contender before her February 2019 diagnosis. Upon being discharged from a hospital in December 2019, she said she hoped to qualify for the Olympics — the 2024 Olympics.

After the Tokyo Games were postponed by one year, Ikee held a lantern with the Olympic Flame in a one-year out event at the Olympic Stadium without spectators on July 23. She returned to competition last August.

“I think my swimming ability has returned to about the level in my first or second year of junior high school,” Ikee said last summer, according to a Kyodo News translation.

Then in December, she began floating the idea of qualifying for Tokyo, according to Japanese media, after clocking a competitive time in the 50m free.

Before her leukemia diagnosis, Ikee won the 100m fly at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships, the year’s major international meet, in a national record 56.08. She also took silver in the 200m free ahead of Katie Ledecky. She later earned six golds, including four in individual events, at the 2018 Asian Games.

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

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South Korea’s first gold medalist of 2018 PyeongChang Olympics to compete for China

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Lim Hyo-Jun, a short track speed skater who won South Korea’s first gold medal of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, has been cleared to skate for China and was reportedly named to the national team Monday.

Lim, who won the 1500m on the first day of medal competition at the PyeongChang Games, began the process of switching to China after a June 2019 incident where he pulled down a teammate’s trousers, leaving him standing, exposed, in front of female teammates.

Lim, the 2019 World overall champion, was banned from the team for a year and later found guilty of sexual harassment before the verdict was overturned on appeal.

It was reported in March 2021 that Lim was in the process of trying to gain Chinese nationality to compete at the Beijing Winter Olympics, but Lim was not cleared to switch by the International Skating Union until this July. His Chinese name is Lin Xiaojun.

Another star South Korean skater, triple 2006 Olympic gold medalist Ahn Hyun-Soo, switched to Russia after not making the 2010 Olympic team. He then won three golds for the host nation as Viktor Ahn at the 2014 Sochi Games.

China’s national team for the upcoming season reportedly does not include veterans Wu Dajing, the nation’s lone gold medalist across all sports at the 2018 Olympics, and Fan Kexin, a three-time Olympic medalist.

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Brigid Kosgei, world record holder, to miss London Marathon

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World record holder Brigid Kosgei withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon due to a right hamstring injury that has bothered her for the last month.

“My training has been up and down and not the way I would like to prepare to be in top condition,” was posted on Kosgei’s social media. “We’ve decided it’s best I withdraw from this year’s race and get further treatment on my injuries in order to enter 2023 stronger than ever.”

Kosgei, a 28-year-old Kenyan mother of twins, shattered the world record by 81 seconds at the 2019 Chicago Marathon. She clocked 2:14:04 to smash Brit Paula Radcliffe‘s record from 2003.

Since, Kosgei won the 2020 London Marathon, took silver at the Tokyo Olympics, placed fourth at the 2021 London Marathon and won this past March’s Tokyo Marathon in what was then the third-fastest time in history (2:16:02).

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa moved into the top three by winning the Berlin Marathon last Sunday in 2:15:37.

The London Marathon women’s field includes Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei, a winner in New York City (2019) and London (2021), and Yalemzerf Yehualaw, who was the Ethiopian record holder until Assefa won in Berlin.

The men’s field is headlined by Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest male marathoner in history, and Brit Mo Farah, a four-time Olympic champion on the track.

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