Japanese swimming star and leukemia survivor Rikako Ikee has vowed to up her game even further, with an eye toward the 2024 Paris Olympics, after wrapping up her final race at the Tokyo Games and capping an incredible comeback from leukemia.
“I hope to show in world competitions from now on that ‘Ikee is getting stronger and stronger,'” she said after swimming in the women’s 400-meter medley relay final Sunday.
The Japanese relay team finished eighth, with Ikee swimming butterfly in the third leg. At the Tokyo Games, Ikee competed in two other relay events but failed to reach the finals.
“I’m really happy I was able to swim with my teammates in this final stage,” she said after Sunday’s race. “I can be proud of myself as I was able to come back.”
Ikee returned to competition after a tough battle with leukemia, which she was diagnosed with in February 2019. The swimming sensation had been hospitalized for treatment until December of that year.
But she struggled after resuming training, nearly giving up on multiple ocassions.
Despite not taking home any medals, Ikee said that the chance after many months to meet fellow athletes she became close with, including Swedish swimmer Sarah Sjostroem, helped her realize how many difficulties she had overcome to reach the Tokyo Olympics.
At the Tokyo Games, Ikee did not enter competitions for individuals due to concerns about her physical strength. But she hopes to compete in the 100-meter butterfly at the 2024 Games.
“When I watched the 100-meter butterfly final (at the Tokyo Games), a sense of confidence sprang up in me that I’ll be able to compete,” Ikee said.
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