Rikako Ikee Punches Her Ticket to Paris Olympics; Heading to 3rd Consecutive Games

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Rikako Ikee gestures after winning the women’s 100-meter butterfly on Monday at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Koto Ward, Tokyo.

Swimmer Rikako Ikee secured a spot at the Paris 2024 Olympics after clocking 57.30 to take second in the women’s 100-meter butterfly on Monday at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

The 23-year-old earned a spot for her third consecutive Games following 2016 in Rio de Janeiro and in 2021 in Tokyo, qualifying for an individual event, which she missed at her home Games.

Ikee’s time in Monday’s final fell short of her semifinal time of 57.03, and she missed first place. However, she broke the qualifying time of 57.34 set by the Japan Swimming Federation and won the Olympic ticket by a mere 0.01 over third place.

“I believe I can go even further,” she said.

Ikee announced in February 2019 that she had been diagnosed with leukemia. Two years later, she competed in a relay event at the Tokyo Olympics. She competed in the world championships last year.

While it seems that Ikee has steadily moved up the ladder in her career after the diagnosis, her times have fallen far short of her own Japanese record of 56.08, clocked before she became ill. There were times when she had wondered where her true self had gone, and even wished that swim meets would end soon.

Conflicted over the issue, Ikee decided in autumn to move her training base to Australia. She felt that her daily training was not up to par with the world’s top swimmers, and the new environment made her feel that she could catch up someday.

One of her Australian coaches said Ikee had a fearful look on her face when she first arrived, but that had changed to a sense of tension.

Said Ikee: “I fell in love with swimming again. Anyway, I’m excited for myself.”

Not only has Ikee’s strength returned, but her cheerful countenance as well.