Rikako Ikee Shines Again at Japanese Trials; Daiya Seto Wins Medley Duel With Kosuke Hagino


Rikako Ikee Shines Again at Japanese Trials; Daiya Seto Wins Medley Duel

The highlights keep coming from the Japanese Olympic Trials, as Rikako Ikee continued her fairytale story on Thursday night while the country’s two-biggest male stars dueled in a down-to-the-wire finish.

A few days after she secured a berth to the Olympic Games as the butterfly leg of Japan’s medley relay, Ikee won the 100 freestyle at Trials to earn herself membership to the 400 freestyle relay that will race at the Tokyo Games. Ikee posted a time of 53.98 to defeat Natsumi Sakai (54.32) and Chihiro Igarashi (54.33). All three women will be part of the 400 free relay this summer, along with fourth-place finisher Rika Omoto (54.36).

While Ikee missed the Japanese Federation’s difficult qualifying standard of 53.31 to contest the 100 freestyle individually at the Games, her two relay qualifications are dream scenarios. Just two years ago, Ikee was diagnosed with Leukemia and her focus was not on swimming, but on her health and battling a deadly disease. Ultimately, the Japanese star claimed victory over Leukemia, but there were few thoughts at that time about racing at a home Olympiad.

As Ikee returned to training and competition, she sought small steps in her comeback, with her target a berth to the 2024 Olympics in Paris. Yet, she showed considerable progress from meet to meet and, well ahead of schedule, she will now be a 2020 (2021) Olympian. Ikee still has the 50 freestyle to contest at Trials.

While Ikee has emerged as the feel-good story of the Japanese Trials, Daiya Seto and Kosuke Hagino engaged in a superb showdown on Thursday in the 200 individual medley. The men have been international medalists in the medley events for years, and just .02 separated them in their latest duel. The reigning world champion, Seto used a strong freestyle finish to rally from behind at the 150-meter mark and edge Hagino, 1:57.41 to 1:57.43.

Seto was already qualified for the Olympic Games in the event due to his status as the world champion, but Hagino entered the race still looking for his first individual bid to Tokyo. The silver medalist in the event at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Hagino will now look for a return to the Olympic podium. As for Seto, he will race three events in Tokyo – both medleys and the 200 butterfly.

In the final of the men’s 200 backstroke, longtime international presence Ryosuke Irie prevailed in 1:55.52 to complete his backstroke double. Irie will be joined in the event in Tokyo by Keita Sunama, who placed second in 1:56.22. Meanwhile, the women’s 200 breaststroke was won by Kanako Watanabe, who touched the wall in 2:23.04, exactly two seconds ahead of Reona Aoki.

A national record was the highlight of the semifinals, thanks to Takeshi Kawamoto going 51.00 to equal the record set back in 2009. Naoki Mizunama was next in 51.35. In the semifinals of the women’s 200 backstroke, Anna Konishi secured the top seed for the final in 2:11.58.

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