Rikako Ikee Caps Magical Week at Japanese Olympic Trials With Two More Wins


Rikako Ikee Caps Magical Week at Japanese Olympic Trials With Two More Wins

Over the past week, the Japanese Olympic Trials have been defined by performances that will generate hope for a strong showing at a home Games this summer in Tokyo. But when the meet is revisited in the coming years, it will be best remembered for what Rikako Ikee was able to achieve after facing a fight for her life.

Two years after being diagnosed with Leukemia and having her future thrown into doubt, Ikee wrapped up a competition in which she registered four victories and emerged as a feel-good story for the world. On Saturday night, Ikee added triumphs in the 50-meter butterfly and 50 freestyle to the previous titles she collected in the 100 butterfly and 100 freestyle.

Although Ikee came up short of earning an individual berth for the Tokyo Games, she will race at the Olympics as a member of Japan’s 400 freestyle relay and 400 medley relay. The fact that she has rebounded from her illness in such rapid fashion is a testament to her spirit and determination and has etched Ikee’s story as one of the most inspirational the sport has seen.

Ikee opened the last day of the meet with a victory in the 50 butterfly, her time of 25.56 supplying a comfortable margin over runnerup Ai Soma (26.03). Ikee followed by winning the 50 freestyle in 24.84, with Rika Omoto placing second in 25.00. As was the case in the 100 fly and 100 free, Ikee’s wins were not enough to secure individual bids in Tokyo, due to the Japanese Federation setting strict qualifying standards that proved to be too difficult to attain. Nonetheless, Ikee’s four victories were sensational and her presence in relay events at the Olympic Games will be highly anticipated.

Katsumi Nakamura was the winner of the men’s 50 free, with a time of 21.97, with Akira Namba second in 22.02. However, Nakamura fell short of the Japanese qualifying standard. In the men’s 1500 freestyle, Shogo Takeda prevailed in 14:55.70, but that time was less than a second off the necessary qualifying mark.

Japan also held finals in the stroke 50s on the last day of the meet. Here is a look at the winners.

50 Backstroke: Miki Takahashi (28.19); Ryosuke Irie (24.90).
50 Breaststroke: Satomi Suzuki (30.71); Yuya Hinomoto (27.30).
50 Butterfly: Takeshi Kawamoto (23.17) – National Record