Swimming

Ikee Rikako books Tokyo Olympic spot in second event

Seven months after returning to competition following her leukemia battle, the Japanese swimmer sealed her place in the 4x100m freestyle at the Games in 2021

By Shintaro Kano ·

Ikee Rikako qualified for a second event at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021, booking her spot in the 4x100-metre freestyle with her performance at the Japan swimming trials on Thursday (8 April).

Four days after her dramatic qualification in the 4x100 medley relay that was heard around the world, Ikee won the 100 free on this night in 53.98 seconds.

She fell short of an Olympic ticket in the individual swim - the qualifying time for the women’s 100 free is 53.10 - but was good enough for the 4x100 relay.

Ikee's body 'not all the way back' but happy with relay spot

Unlike on Sunday when she was bursting with emotion, Ikee admitted the first two events at this meet have taken a lot out of her.

“I never thought I had a chance to qualify individually so I’m happy I made the relay team with a 53”, she said.

“I’m really feeling it right now physically. I’m exhausted after the three butterfly races and the free, which suggests my body is not all the way back.

“But I’m happy with the results. The challenge for me will be to improve my conditioning in the next three-and-a-half months”.

Ikee will be joined in the relay by Sakai Natsumi (54.32), Igarashi Chihiro (54.33) and Omoto Rika (54.36).

Rikako Ikee at Rio 2016

Rikako Ikee broke the Japanese 100m butterfly record twice on her way to fi...

The 20-year-old cancer survivor has one more chance of booking a spot at the Games, when she takes part in the 50m freestyle on Saturday.

It remains to be seen how much she has left in the tank but suffice it to say that Ikee has more than surpassed expectations - especially her own - at these national championships.

Ikee was diagnosed with leukemia two years ago, and only returned to competition seven months ago.

However, the Tokyo native is already looking forward the Olympics in her hometown, her second Games following Rio 2016.

“I honestly didn’t think I’d win this event. I thought maybe top four, if all went well.

“The 100 fly, as is the relay, starts on the first day of the Olympics and the first day is important to get the entire team going.

“It will be my second Games and I think there’s a lot I can pass on with my experience.

“I want to help lead the team and enjoy it”.

Hagino secures 200 IM berth

On Day 6 of the eight-day trials at Tokyo Aquatics Centre, Hagino Kosuke qualified for his first individual swim at Tokyo 2020 in the 200 individual medley.

Hagino, the Rio 2016 silver medallist in the event, was tipped at the wall by all of 0.02 by his good friend and reigning world champion Seto Daiya, who won in 1:57.41.

Seto had already locked up one of the two spots in the 200 IM by virtue of his gold medal from the 2019 worlds.

Hagino chose not to defend his Olympic title in the 400 IM here, and withdrew from the 200 backstroke a day earlier.

Hagino Kosuke and Seto Daiya share a laugh after finishing one-two in the 200-metre IM at the Japanese Olympic trials. (Photo by The Yomiuri Shimbun via Reuters)

He made the 4x200 freestyle relay team but did not meet the individual qualifying time, leaving the 200 IM as his only shot to race individually at the Games this summer.

“I gave it everything I had today and I’m happy with the outcome”, said Hagino, who is on his way to a third Olympic Games.

“I was a little uptight going into the race but it was nice to be swimming with Daiya again.

“Yesterday we talked about it being a dogfight and that’s how it turned out.

“I was angling for a 1:56 because that’s nothing special now among the world’s best swimmers. So I still have a lot to work on for the summer”.

In other qualifiers, Irie Ryosuke and Sunama Keita will represent Japan in the men’s 200 backstroke after clocking 1:55.52 and 1:56.22, respectively.

Watanabe Kanako (2:23.04) and Aoki Reona (2:25.04) made the team in the women’s 200 breaststroke.

Rikako Ikee's emotional reaction after winning the 100-meter butterfly final during the Japanese Championships. (The Yomiuri Shimbun)