Rikako Ikee Rethinks Race-Return Plans After Japan Fed Restricts Event Entries to 32-40 Swimmers

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Rikako Ikee lets the media take a peak at her return to practice ahead of a race return in October, pandemic allowing - Photo Courtesy: Kyodo News/Rikako Ikee

A decision by the Japanese Swimming Federation to restrict the number of swimmers allowed at any meet to between 32 and 40 competitors may hasten the race-comeback plans of sprint ace Rikako Ikee, who returned to the pool in March for the first time since she was diagnosed with leukemia last year.

A month ago, Ikee told the Japanese media invited to watch her train that she had pencilled in the Japan intercollegiate championships in October for a possible first test of race skills.

Now, however, a decision of the federation’s board on Tuesday this week to respond to the continuing challenges of the coronavirus pandemic by restricting numbers at competitions may bring forward Ikee’s competitive comeback to August 27 at a university duel in Tokyo.

Eligibility for a place among the 32-40 swimmers will be determined by comparing times recorded since April 2019, ruling Ikee out. The duel between Nihon University, where Rikako Ikee is a second-year student, and Chuo University at the Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Center on August 27 involves fewer swimmers and would allow her to register a time before the September 11 deadline for applications to enter the more competitive intercollegiate championships the following month.

Rikako Ikee Asked To Stay Home As A Precaution

To further complicate matters, Nihon University has suspended activities after one male student with the swimming club tested positive for the novel coronavirus last Saturday, August 1. Ikee did not have close contact with that swimmer but is being asked to stay at home for a few days as a precautionary measure.

Rikako Ikee has not yet made a final decision on the duel this month, according to The Mainichi, which reports that the meet would mark Ikee’s first race in a year and seven months. She last competed at the Mitsubishi Yowa Sprint in January 2019 before she was diagnosed with leukaemia a month later.

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