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Leukemia survivor Rikako Ikee qualifies for next Asian Games

Rikako Ikee, the 2018 Asian Games’ MVP, qualified on Saturday for this September’s games in Hangzhou, China, with a 53.83-second time in the women’s 100-meter freestyle at Japan’s national championships.

Ikee, who won six gold medals at the 2018 games in Jakarta, was diagnosed with leukemia in February 2019. However, she came back strong enough to compete at last summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

A winner of six gold medals in Jakarta, Ikee has also qualified for the Asian Games’ 50 butterfly via the nationals at Yokohama International Swimming Pool.

“I’m sincerely happy,” Ikee said after meeting the qualifying standard in the 100 freestyle two months after she failed to qualify for this year’s world championships.

“(Before the race) I was so nervous, I was on the verge of tears, but I believed in the work I’ve put in.”

Ikee has recently been focusing on making better use of her shoulder blades as she refines her technique, although she said she is aware of how far she has to go as she swims toward the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“My position in the world of freestyle sprints is a precarious one,” she said. “But if I keep practicing how to make use of my strengths, I might be able to recover my former standing.”

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