Japan leukaemia survivor Ikee to swim at Paris Olympics

AFP , Thursday 28 Mar 2024

Leukaemia survivor Rikako Ikee will compete for Japan in the 100m butterfly at the Paris Olympics after missing out on an individual place at the Tokyo Games three years ago.

Rikako Ikee
Rikako Ikee celebrates a bronze medal for the women s 50m butterfly at the Asian Games in Hangzhou last year.AFP


Three-time world champion Daiya Seto will swim the men's individual medley after Japan's 27-member team for the Paris Games was announced by the country's Swimming Federation on Wednesday.

An 18-year-old Ikee was named MVP of the 2018 Asian Games after claiming six golds and two silvers, and was expected to be one of the stars of the Tokyo Olympics.

In early 2019, a few months after those triumphs, she was diagnosed with leukaemia and spent around 10 months in hospital.

She only returned to competition in August 2020 and completed an incredible comeback by winning the 100m freestyle and 100m butterfly at the 2021 Olympic trials.

Her times were not fast enough to qualify for the individual events in Tokyo but the performances gained her selection for both freestyle and medley relay teams at her home Olympics.

Now 23, Ikee secured her place in the 100m butterfly by just 0.01sec at Japan's trials earlier this month as she held off the fast-finishing Matsumoto Shiho to finish second in 57.34sec.

"In the end I think it was my long arms that won the touch," Ikee was quoted as saying by Olympics.com.

"I think God was on my side today."

The race was won in an impressive 56.91sec by 17-year-old Haiari Mazuki, one of several talented Japanese teenagers in the team.

Also heading to Paris are Mio Narita, 17, in the women's individual medley and Tomoyuki Matsushita, 18, who swims the same event for men.

"I'm glad lots of veterans and young talent made it to the national team this time," Daichi Suzuki, the swimming federation chief, was reported as saying by Japan media.

"I hope to see them on the podium with Japan's national flag on their shoulders in Paris," he added.

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