In a remarkable story of determination and perseverance, 20-year-old Rikako Ikee qualified for the postponed 2020 Olympic Games just months after her return to racing.
Spending nearly the entire calendar year of 2019 in the hospital undergoing intense treatments in her fight against leukemia, Ikee dove back into the pool for her first race in August of 2020. Flash forward to April 2021 and Ikee powered her way onto the Japanese roster for a home-based Games as a member of the 4x100m free and 4x100m medley relays.
Ikee topped the women’s 100m free and 100m fly events at her nation’s Olympic Trials in April, although she missed the stiff Japanese Swimming Federation-mandated qualification times for individual swims.
Some speculated that the federation may indeed grant Ikee the ability to race the events individually since she will be in Tokyo on the relays. However, with the official events-per-swimmer document published by the JASF, we can confirm that Ikee is indeed keeping to just the relays, primarily to conserve physical strength in her first international elite competition back.
Daiya Seto is racing the most individual events at 3, set to battle in the men’s 200m IM, 400m IM and 200m fly, as expected.
Shoma Sato and Ryuya Mura, however, are both now entered in the 100m and 200m breaststroke, despite having only hit the qualification time in the longer distance. In the 100m breast sprint at the Trials in April, Sato touched first in 59.30 while Mura snagged the silver in 59.55 when a QT of 59.21 was needed to qualify outright.
Sato has proven to be a major player in the 200m breast event, currently ranked #2 in the world in 2:06.40, sitting only behind Aussie Zac Stubblety-Cook’s 2:06.28 from his nation’s Olympic Trials.