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Rikako Ikee not ready to give up on 2020 Olympics

Kyodo

Swimming star Rikako Ikee said Wednesday she will not give up on competing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics despite being diagnosed with leukemia a month ago.

A day after local organizers marked 500 days until the start of the games, Ikee shared her resolution on social media.

The 18-year-old, who announced her diagnosis four weeks ago, tweeted, “499 days until the Tokyo Olympics. I was late by one day. I will not give up yet!”

Ikee, who holds multiple national records, said last week on Twitter that battling the disease is “several thousand times harder” than she thought. She now has over half a million Twitter followers.

Ikee has put all swimming-related activities on hold in order to focus on her treatment, including skipping April’s national championships, which serve as a qualifier for the world championships.

Her announcement last month sent shock waves across Japan, as she had been considered a medal hopeful for the 2020 Games.

Words of encouragement and support have poured in for the teenager from all across the world, including fellow swimmers, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and actor Ken Watanabe, who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 1989.

Ikee set a Japanese record in the women’s 100-meter butterfly in her first Olympic final at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, placing sixth.

At last summer’s Asian Games in Jakarta, she was named the first female MVP after becoming the first swimmer to win six gold medals, all in games-record times.

She holds national records over 50, 100 and 200 meters in freestyle, as well as 50 and 100 in butterfly.