Rikako Ikee, who revealed in February of last year she had leukemia, returned to competitive swimming on Saturday in the women's 50-meter freestyle at a meet in Tokyo.
The 20-year-old swam her first race in nearly 19 months and clocked 26.32 seconds in the two-day competition at Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Center. Her national record time in the 50 is 24.21.
Ikee also holds national records in the 100- and 200-meter freestyle, as well as the 50 and 100 butterfly. She was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2018 Asian Games after winning six gold medals.
Ikee needed to post a time of 26.86 seconds or better to qualify for October's intercollegiate championships, which she has said she is targeting.
"I was extremely nervous, but I still blew past my target (26.86)," she said. "I recognized many areas for improvement. If I can iron those out, my results will get better in leaps and bounds."
A medal contender for the now-postponed Tokyo Olympics before her diagnosis, Ikee was released in December after a 10-month hospitalization, at which time she said on social media that her goal for an Olympic return is the 2024 Paris Games.
The meet was organized by the Tokyo Swimming Association to give athletes a chance to compete following the cancellation of so many other meets this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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