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Rikako Ikee captures record sixth Asian Games swim gold

AFP-JIJI, Kyodo

Golden girl Rikako Ikee stormed to a record sixth Asian Games swimming title on Friday, marking a few other firsts for good measure.

Ikee won the 50-meter freestyle final by a fingertip ahead of China’s Liu Xiang, clocking 24.53 seconds to become the first woman in any sport to scoop six gold medals at a single Asiad. She beat Liu by 0.07 seconds. Liu’s compatriot Wu Qingfeng placed third.

“Of all my races I was the most nervous before this one,” Ikee said. “I really didn’t think I was going to win. But at the end, I absolutely did not want to lose.

“My time was OK, but the big thing was that at the end I didn’t give up and I could swim really strong.”

The 18-year-old celebrated with a rare display of emotion, raising her fist in the air as she soaked up the applause of Japanese fans.

Ikee, who is set to be the face of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in her home city, had already snaffled gold in the 50m fly, 100 fly, 100 free, 4×100 free relay and the 4×100 medley, and finished the week with eight medals in total — a joint best. She earned silver in the 4×200 freestyle and the mixed 4×100 medley.

Ikee’s personal gold and total medal tally makes her the most successful athlete at this year’s Asian Games so far, with fellow swimmer, China’s Xu Jiayu, her closest rival with four gold medals.

North Korea shooter So Gin Man bagged seven gold medals and eight overall in 1982 in New Delhi.

In the second race of the night, Yasuhiro Koseki finished a clean sweep of breaststroke gold, winning the men’s 50 in 27.07.

China’s Yan Zibei finished second, 0.18 behind, and Kazakhstan’s Dmitriy Balandin placed third.