Rikako Ikee Easily Paces Prelims of 100 Freestyle at Japanese Trials


Rikako Ikee Easily Paces Prelims of 100 Butterfly at Japanese Trials

A berth to this summer’s Olympic Games already earned, Rikako Ikee returned to action at the Japanese Trials on Wednesday morning. Coming off a victory in the 100-meter butterfly, a showing that earned her a place on her country’s medley relay for the Tokyo Games, Ikee easily advanced through the preliminaries of the 100 freestyle.

Posting a time of 54.30, Ikee grabbed the top seed for the semifinals of the 100 free and was nearly a second quicker than the No. 2 qualifier, Chihiro Igarashi (55.24). Ikee was out in 26.47 and looked smooth through her two laps. The third-fastest qualifier was Natsumi Sakai, who touched the wall in 55.27.

When Ikee won the 100 fly on the second night of competition, her triumph marked a spectacular moment in the sport. Just two years after being diagnosed with Leukemia and facing a battle for her life, Ikee showed immense resilience, and the amount of talent she possesses. Initially, Ikee came off her fight with Leukemia looking to qualify for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. Now, she’s three years ahead of schedule.

While Ikee qualified to represent Japan in the medley relay, she came up short of securing an individual bid in the 100 butterfly. In the 100 freestyle, Ikee will need to post a time of 53.31 to contest the event individually in Tokyo. To earn individual opportunities at the Games, the Japanese Federation is requiring its athletes to deliver times equal to what it took to qualify for the finals at the 2019 World Championships.

In the men’s 200 backstroke, Ryosuke Irie was fastest over four laps, as his 1:58.41 clocking topped the 1:59.33 of Kaito Yamada. Scratching out of the event was Kosuke Hagino, who decided to focus on the 200 individual medley later in the program and not take on an incredibly difficult double. In the short medley, Hagino placed second in the prelims, as his time of 1:59.60 trailed only the 1:59.14 of Daiya Seto, who is already qualified for the Olympics in the event by virtue of his status as the reigning world champion.

Only .40 separated the top-seven finishers in the women’s 200 breaststroke, with the top-four women separated by a mere .07. Satomi Suzuki (2:26.51) and Kanako Watanabe (2:26.54) led the way, with Nana Sogabe next in 2:26.55 and Shiori Asaba in fourth in 2:26.58.

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