FEMALE ASIAN SWIMMER OF THE YEAR: RIKAKO IKEE, JAPAN
With her 2016 Olympic Games final appearance, as well as a 6th place finish at the 2017 World Championships, Rikako Ikee of Japan has been on the international swimming scene as a viable competitor for the past couple of years. However, now at 18 years of age, Ikee may have had her best year yet, culminating with a first-ever female MVP award at the 2018 Asian Games.
Ikee kicked off the year domestically by sweeping the sprint fly and free events at the Japan Open in April while establishing new national records across every event along the way. Ikee nabbed the 50m free title in 24.21, the 100m free title in 53.03, the 50m fly title in 25.43 and the 100m fly title in 56.38, with all marks checking as new national standards.
The Renaissance Club athlete continued her domination at May’s Japan Open, where she won the aforementioned same 4 events and lowered her 50m fly national record to 25.25.
Moving on to the Tokyo-hosted Pan Pacific Championships, Ikee busted out the 200m free swim of her life, crushing a mark of 1:54.85 to clinch silver behind Canada’s Taylor Ruck and ahead of America’s freestyle icon Katie Ledecky. Ikee’s head-turning effort registered as a new Japanese National Record, but also as the Asian continental record, a mark which stood through even the prestigious Asian Games.
At those Games, Ikee wrangled up 4 individual titles in her signature sprint free and fly events, while also snagging 4 relay medals representing Japan. With a monster 8 medals in total, including 6 golds in Jakarta, Ikee was named Championship MVP, representing the first female ever to earn the recognition.
Wang Jianjiahe (CHN)
16-year-old Wang of China earned 800m freestyle gold at her home country-hosted Short Course World Championships earlier this month. She also anchored China’s 4x200m free relay to gold, while also taking silver in the 400m free at the meet. Earlier this year, Wang broke the 400 free WR in SCM and was a tenth off of the 800 free WR.
At the Asian Games in Jakarta, Wang swept the women’s mid-distance freestyle events, taking the 400m, 800m and 1500m free while setting new Games Records across all 3.
Yui Ohashi (JPN)
At 23 years of age, Ohashi is hitting her stride and is the bona fide Asian IM queen. Kicking off her 2018, Ohashi nailed a new Japanese National Record in the LCM 400IM at April’s Japanese National Championships.
Later this year, Ohashi took the 400m IM gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games and also snagged silver in the 200m IM at that same competition. She followed that up with dual golds in both IM events at the Pan Pacific Championships on her home turf of Tokyo.