• Kyodo, AFP-Jiji


Swimming star Rikako Ikee, who is recovering from leukemia, received a berth at the Tokyo Olympics in the 4×100 medley relay after winning the women’s 100-meter butterfly on Sunday at Japan’s national championships.

Ikee was in tears after finishing in 57.77 seconds at Tokyo Aquatics Center, the Olympic swimming venue. She needed 57.92 for a place in the medley relay, while 57.10 was the Japan Swimming Federation’s required standard to compete for Japan this summer in the 100 butterfly.

“I’ve never thought I’d be able to win the 100. I was less confident compared to the qualifier five years ago and I thought I could win only in the distant future,” Ikee said.

“But I trained to win and I was saying to myself ‘I’m back’, as I entered this race.

“I thought it would be much later that I would be able to start winning.”

She is competing in two more Olympic qualifying events here, the 50 and 100 freestyle, plus a non-Olympic event, the 50 butterfly.

The 20-year-old, competing at the nationals for the first time since being diagnosed with the disease in February 2019, was third in the 100 butterfly semifinals in 58.48 seconds a day earlier.

Ikee returned to the pool in March 2020 before she resumed competing in August. She has publicly targeted the 2024 Paris Olympics but her rapid recovery meant an appearance at this summer’s Tokyo Games was becoming a possibility.

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