Rikako Ikee Takes Strong First Step at Japanese Olympic Trials; Daiya Seto Looks Sharp


Rikako Ikee Takes Strong First Step at Japanese Olympic Trials; Daiya Seto Looks Sharp

Just two years ago, Japanese star Rikako Ikee wasn’t concerned with attending her country’s Olympic Trials. Rather, Ikee was focused on her health and winning a battle with Leukemia. Victory for Ikee came against the deadly disease, and on Saturday in Tokyo, the multi-event talent penned the latest chapter in her inspiring comeback tale.

Racing in the 100-meter butterfly, Ikee clocked a time of 58.68 to qualify second for the evening’s semifinal round. Although Ikee has considerable work to do to qualify for this summer’s Olympic Games, the fact that she is even at the Japanese Trials is a tribute to her persistence and spirit. Certainly, she has plenty of support in her chase for a place at a home Olympics.

While Ikee qualified in the No. 2 slot, Ai Soma registered a time of 58.38 to secure the top seed for the semifinals. The third spot went to Nao Kobayashi in 58.74. The time set by the Japanese Federation for qualification to the Tokyo Games is 57.10, which is equivalent to the time it took to advance to the final of the event at the 2019 World Championships.

In the men’s 400 individual medley, only one berth to the Tokyo Games is available. As the reigning world champion, Daiya Seto has already been given an invitation, and it was Seto who led qualifying with a mark of 4:12.67. Although Seto has nothing to prove in the event, he made it clear he is the class of the discipline, as he built a commanding lead on the opening butterfly and backstroke legs and coasted home. He was followed into the final by Ippei Miyamoto (4:14.20) and So Ogata (4:14.25).

Yui Ohashi, who has reached the podium at the past two editions of the World Championships, eased to the fastest time of the morning in the women’s 400 individual medley. Ohashi opened up a huge edge in her heat and coasted to the finish, touching the wall in 4:38.94, the only swim under 4:40. Sakiko Shimizu was second in 4:41.59.

There were four sub-minute performances in the preliminaries of the men’s 100 breaststroke, with Yoshiki Yamanaka leading the way in 59.64, just ahead of the 59.66 of Yuya Hinomoto. Shoma Sato, better known for his 200 breaststroke prowess, was next in 59.73, followed by Ryuya Mura in 59.87.

The top qualifier in the men’s 400 freestyle was Shui Kurokawa, who posted a time of 3:49.12, the only mark under 3:50.