Rikako Ikee Responds to Social Media Calls to Bypass Tokyo Games Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

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Rikako Ikee Responds to Social Media Calls to Bypass Tokyo Games Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Last month, Rikako Ikee continued her feel-good comeback from Leukemia when she qualified for the Olympic Games as a member of Japan’s 400-meter freestyle relay and 400 medley relay. Now, Ikee is defending her intention to race at a home Olympiad amid social-media calls for her to withdraw and oppose the Tokyo Games.

The social-media demands she has faced come at a time when several Japanese cities, including Tokyo, are operating in a State of Emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and 80 percent of citizens are opposed to the Olympics being held. More than 200,000 signatures have been collected on an online petition that calls for the cancellation of the Games and suggests that if the Olympics are held, attention to fighting the pandemic will be limited.

Ikee was diagnosed with Leukemia two years ago and battled back to health from the life-threatening disease. She then responded at the Japanese Olympic Trials by qualifying for relay duty after winning the 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly. To Ikee’s credit, she responded eloquently to the Internet requests to bypass the Tokyo Games.

“We athletes have, of course, been working hard in order to take part in the Olympics, but I think it is natural that many are calling for the Games’ cancellation due to the coronavirus pandemic,” Ikee wrote on Twitter, according to Japan Today. “I share your desire to emerge from this darkness as quickly as possible, but to put that burden on the shoulders of individual athletes is very tough.

“I have a chronic illness, and whether the Games are held or not, I live every day with the anxiety of possibly (being infected with the coronavirus and) becoming seriously ill. Myself and other athletes will accept what happens, whether the Olympics take place or not. And, of course, I will work my hardest if it goes forward. If it doesn’t, I’ll do my best for the next one.”