Japanese swimmer IKEE Rikako returns to competition

Ikee Rikako of Japan celebrates winning the Women's 100m Butterfly Final at the 2018 FINA Swimming World Cup at Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Center (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)
Ikee Rikako of Japan celebrates winning the Women's 100m Butterfly Final at the 2018 FINA Swimming World Cup at Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Center (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

On Saturday (29 August), the 20-year-old swimming star made her return to competitive swimming

In February 2019 Japan's IKEE Rikako revealed her leukemia diagnosis however, over the weekend she made her return to competitive swimming.

The Rio 2016 Olympian swam in her first race - the 50m freestyle - in nearly 19 months in a meet at Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Centre.

The two-day event was organised by the Tokyo Swimming Association to give swimmers a chance to compete following the cancellation of many meets due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aiming for a time of 26.86 seconds or better, which would see her qualify for October's intercollegiate championships, the six-time Asian Games gold medallist blew past the time.

Ikee touched the wall in 26.32 seconds.

"I was extremely nervous, but I still blew past my target (26.86)," the 20-year-old told reporters.

"I recognised many areas for improvement. If I can iron those out, my results will get better in leaps and bounds."

Ahead of the weekend, Ikee had posted a video on Twitter with the caption: "I couldn't do it a few months ago".

The Tokyo-born swimmer holds the national records in both the 100m and 200m freestyle along with the 50m and 100m butterfly.

Before her diagnosis, Ikee was medal favourite for the now postponed Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. However, after being released from hospital in December last year, she wrote on social media that her goal for an Olympic return is Paris 2024.

She returned to the swimming pool in March this year.

Last month, the Japanese swimmer delivered a message of hope to people across the globe, encouraging the world to look forward to next year's Games during the One Year to Go celebrations for the Olympics.

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