Rikako Ikee

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

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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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Rikako Ikee, Japan swim star, eyes 2024 Olympics after leukemia

Rikako Ikee
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Japanese swimmer Rikako Ikee, who announced she was diagnosed with leukemia in February, was discharged after a 10-month hospitalization and wants to return for the 2024 Paris Olympics, according to her social media.

“There were times when I had strong nausea from the medication or a sense of fatigue, but I kept telling myself, ‘It’s OK, it’s OK, it will end at some point,'” was posted, according to a Kyodo News translation. “I want to work hard with a goal of competing at the 2024 Paris Olympics and winning a medal.”

Ikee, 19, became Japan’s premier female swimmer in 2017 and 2018.

She 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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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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