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Rikako Ikee promises to keep working as Asiad ends

Kyodo, AP

Japanese swimming star Rikako Ikee vowed Sunday she will continue to excel on the global stage after winning more medals, six gold and eight total, than any other athlete during the multisport event in Indonesia.

Ikee was named the Asian Games’ MVP after she became the first athlete in any sport to win six gold medals at a single Asian Games. Her eight medals equalled the mark set by North Korean shooter So Gin Man at the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi.

“Even though I was able to win the MVP here at the Asian Games, it is not like I have won medals at a global tournament,” she told reporters from the main press center during the 16th and final day of competition in Jakarta and Palembang. The 18-year-old Ikee vowed to keep working, “as there will be many chances next year and the year after.

“The Tokyo Olympics feel close and far away at the same time. I want to perform at my best in my home country,” Ikee said at the ceremony where she received a $50,000 prize and a trophy from the Olympic Council of Asia. “The MVP is something I have been aiming for, so I am happy.”

Ikee won all of her individual events — the 50-meter and 100 freestyle as well as 50 and 100 butterfly — and was a member of the gold-winning teams in the 4×100 freestyle and medley relays.

She also took silvers competing in the team 4×200 freestyle and the mixed 4×100 medley relay.

Ikee’s six-gold performance is also a new national record, exceeding the five won by Yoshimi Nishigawa at both the 1970 and 1974 games.

She carried the flag for Japan as the games came to a close on Sunday night.

The opening ceremony two weeks ago was highly choreographed, but the athletes starred in most of the closing pomp as they sang and danced on the infield at the Bung Karno stadium during a persistent shower, Jakata’s first rain in a month.

Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah of Kuwait, the head of the Olympic Council of Asia, got rousing applause when he told the packed stadium: “Thank you Jakarta, thank you Palembang. You did it.”

China, Japan and South Korea topped the medal table — as usual — and host Indonesia had its best-ever Asian Games, finishing fourth.

A combined Korea team stole some of the show, winning four medals over two weeks. Three were in dragon boat racing, and one of those was gold. A unified Korean women’s ice hockey team also competed in the Winter Olympics six months ago in Pyeongchang, South Korea, but did not win a medal.