Rikako Ikee said she felt stronger Sunday following her second place finish in the Japan Open women’s 50-meter freestyle, her first podium finish since returning to competition from leukemia treatment.
The 20-year-old said, “I really got the sense I’m getting there,” after she finished 0.16 second back in the final at the new Tokyo Aquatics Center, the main swimming venue for this summer’s Olympics. The result comes about two years after the 2018 Asian Games MVP revealed her diagnosis on Feb. 8, 2019.
In January, Ikee put a damper on talk about competing in this year’s postponed Olympics after becoming eligible for the 100 freestyle at April’s national championships, a qualifying event for Japan’s Olympic team.
Through improvements to her diet, Ikee has gained 6 kilograms in less than a year. She said she tightened up at the finish on Sunday and remains cautious about this year’s Olympics.
“I want to move forward patiently,” Ikee said. “I can’t say I’m aiming for the Tokyo Olympics, so I just want to keep progressing little by little.”
Ikee is due to resume competing in the butterfly at the Tokyo Open on Feb. 20 and 21, when she is expected to race in both the 50- and 100-meter events.
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