Olympian Rikako Ikee was diagnosed with leukemia back in 2019, but the star Japanese swimmer will be competing in her national home Olympics this year after all. The diagnosis was a crushing development for one of Japan’s rising athletes and one of the world’s best in the 100-meter butterfly, who placed sixth at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. She also holds the national record for the 100-fly and the 50-meter freestyle, among other significant achievements in the sport.
Ikee commented on her illness after feeling ill during a 2019 trip to Australia for training. Then 18, she received testing after returning to Japan and was devastated with the development, heading to a hospital for treatment and uncertain of her upcoming plans to compete.
A lot can happen in two years. Now 20 years old, Ikee won the 100-meter butterfly event at Japan’s Olympic trials this past week with a time of 57.77 seconds, shy of her official national record of 57.27. Speaking to the Associated Press, Ikee is overcome with emotion after finding out she secured placement: “I was not expecting to win the 100 meters at all, and I was feeling far less confident than during the Olympic qualifiers five years ago.”
The swimmer had originally set her sights on preparing for the 2024 Olympics in Paris and had not considered that she even had a chance to qualify for her home Olympics