She’s done it again. Swimming star Rikako Ikee, who is recovering from leukemia, claimed her second Tokyo Olympic berth on Thursday. This time she bagged a place on the women’s 4×100 freestyle relay on the back of her victory in the 100-meter freestyle at Japan’s national championships.
The 20-year-old punched her first ticket to the games by winning the 100-meter butterfly final Sunday, which earned her a place on Japan’s 4×100 medley relay team, in a remarkable comeback from illness, Kaz Nagatsuka reports. It also drew tweets from the likes of the International Olympic Committee chief and a former Japanese PM.
“I’ve practiced to win,” said Ikee, who has lost as much as 18 kilograms during her treatment for leukemia. “And I was like, ‘I’m home’ when I made my entrance before the race. I learned that even if you don’t have enough confidence, your hard work will still pay off for you.”
Four-time world champ Daiya Seto, meanwhile, qualified for his third Olympic event Tuesday by coming in second in the men’s 200-meter butterfly. Having done his time in exile for the crime of an extramarital affair, Seto now aims to claim one of Michael Phelps’ world records at Tokyo 2020.
Here’s another name to watch: Shoma Sato, whose time in his victory in the 200-meter breaststroke Wednesday was a national record, and second only to the world record set by Russian Anton Chupkov in 2019, notes Nagatsuka.
Also keep an eye on Katsuhiro Matsumoto, who eclipsed his own Japan 200-meter freestyle record Monday by nearly half a second. The mark tied the gold-winning time logged by China’s Sun Yang at the Rio Games and beat Yang’s winning time at the 2019 worlds, where Matsumoto won silver.