Tearful Rikako Ikee ‘Really Happy’ After Comeback at Tokyo Olympics

Jul 30, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Rikako Ikee (JPN) in the women's 4x100m medley relay heats during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Grace Hollars-USA TODAY Sports
Photo Courtesy: Grace Hollars/USA TODAY Sports

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Rikako Ikee, who survived a bout of leukemia and recovered in time to swim at the Tokyo Olympics, shared her happiness to be back in the water after the conclusion of the Games.

Speaking to the Japan Times, Ikee expressed joy at being able to be back even quicker than she had expected.

“Really a lot of things happened over the past five years and the Tokyo Olympics was something that I gave up on at one point,” Ikee said. “But I feel really happy to have been able to swim as a relay member in the final.”

Jul 30, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Rikako Ikee (JPN) in the women's 4x100m medley heats during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Rikako Ikee; Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA TODAY

Ikee swam two relays at the Tokyo Olympics. She swam the third leg of Japan’s 400 freestyle relay, with a team-best split of 53.65 seconds, as the foursome finished ninth. The 400 medley relay made the final, in sixth after prelims and ultimately finishing eighth. Ikee swam in both prelims and finals on the butterfly leg.

It was all a bonus for Ikee, who said after she recovered that the Paris Olympics were the goal. Now 21, Ikee was diagnosed with leukemia in February 2019. She returned to competition last August, effectively writing off any chance of participating in the Tokyo Olympics. But she recovered her speed quicker than she anticipated, winning a pair of events at Japanese Olympic Trials. She had a strong case to swim an individual event in Tokyo but opted for the relay participation instead.

For someone that won medals in international competition at age 16, a return to form is a welcomed sight for one of Japan swimming’s most promising talents in recent memory.

“One year ago, I did start swimming but I wasn’t participating in any competitions,” Ikee said after the women’s 400 free relay. “So I didn’t even think I’d be here at a world competition and as a representative of my country and as a representative who has overcome illness. Being back here I felt again that I want to be a person who can inspire others.”

Ikee has been an inspiration to a number of her fellow elite swimmers, and she’s a beacon of hope under the continuing trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ikee’s gratitude for the opportunity to swim only furthers her influence in that realm.

“It’s not a result I alone produced, but coming this far while not being sure if I can make the Games, the Games going ahead safely and getting to return (to the Olympics) here, I’m really happy,” Ikee said.

 

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