Rikako Ikee Swims to Runner-Up in 50 Free at Japan Open in Fastest Time Since Leukemia Diagnosis

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Rikako Ikee Swims to Runner-Up in 50 Free at Japan Open in Fastest Time Since Leukemia Diagnosis

The Japan Open concluded Sunday at the Olympic Aquatic Center in Tokyo with many of Japan’s best in action 167 days out from the first day of swimming at the Games. The biggest news of the day came from leukemia survivor Rikako Ikee, who finished second in the 50 free final at 24.91 behind Rika Omoto at 24.75 and ahead of Chihiro Igarashi at 24.99.


The time is well quicker than her 25.62 best time in October since her leukemia diagnosis as she has seemingly got stronger every time she jumps into the pool. Even with an extra year of preparing for the Olympic Games, Ikee played down any chances at making the Japanese Olympic team earlier this week.

“This was a painful reminder that competition is unforgiving,” Rikako Ikee told reporters earlier this week after the 100 free.

“It’s not about my aiming for the Tokyo Olympics, but focusing on the task at hand, calmly putting in the work in practice.”

In the early days of 2021, Rikako Ikee is ranked fifth in the world in the 50 free. Her best time, which stands as the Japanese national record, is a 24.21. Only five Japanese women have ever broken 25 seconds in the 50 free all-time, with Igarashi joining that bunch on Sunday.

In other action, Ryosuke Irie swept the Olympic backstroke distances with a 1:56.52 in the 200 back final, which puts him past Ryan Murphy in the world rankings for 2021 as Murphy was a 1:56.8 in January and Irie improved on his 1:57 from last month’s Kitajima Cup. He won ahead of Masato Sakai (1:58.90).

In the men’s 100 fly, Takeshi Kawamoto won in a stacked race at 51.28, which is also the fastest time in the world this year, ahead of Naoki Mizunuma (51.34), who had the fastest time in the world. Katsuhiro Matsumoto nearly won the race from lane eight with a 51.47 while Yuki Kobori was fourth at 51.87.

In the women’s 100 fly in the absence of Ikee, Chiharu Iitsuka won at 58.37 ahead of Suzuka Hasegawa at 58.68 and 200 fly champ Hiroko Makino (58.77).

2015 World champ Kanako Watanabe won the women’s 200 breast final at 2:24.15 in the second fastest time in the world this year, ahead of Sakiko Shimizu (2:25.92) and Reona Aoki (2:26.87).

Other winners on the night included Marina Furubayashi in the 200 back (2:10.02) and Koshiro Sakai in the 50 free (22.03).

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