Leukemia survivor Rikako Ikee qualifies for Olympics

Tokyo, April 4

Japanese swimmer Rikako Ikee today qualified for the Tokyo Olympics just two years after she was diagnosed with leukemia.

She swam a time of 57.77 seconds in the 100m butterfly at Japan’s national championships held at the new swimming venue for the Tokyo Olympics. That qualified her for a place in the medley relay.

She was overcome with tears in the water after the race, and could barely speak out of the water later, sniffling and crying at the same time. She slammed her left arm against the water when she realised she had won.

“I was not expecting to win the 100m at all, and I was feeling far less confident than during the Olympics qualifiers five years ago,” she said.

“I thought I wouldn’t be able to win for a long time. But I trained hard to win. And, in the end, I came into the race telling myself I’m back. And so I feel that, even if you go through suffering and pain, your hard work will always be rewarded.”

The 20-year-old Ikee returned to the pool about a year ago but had said her goal was only to prepare for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. She had downplayed her chances for her home Olympics.She would have been among the favorites in several Olympic races in Tokyo races if she had not fallen ill and faced setbacks.

“I wanted to try to feel true happiness just being here,” she added. “My teammates cheered me on, sending me off (to the race). And so I am now filled with happiness.”

Ikee won six gold medals in 2018 at the Asian Games. She finished sixth in the 100m butterfly in the 2016 Olympics. — AP

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