The 2019 Japanese Student Swimming Championships wrapped up on Sunday, but not before a very special guest made an appearance in the stands.
Donning a surgical mask, 19-year-old Rikako Ikee was cheering amidst the crowd at Tatsumi International Swimming Centre on Friday, September 6th, making her first public appearance since having been diagnosed with leukemia this past February. Ikee had only earlier been released from the hospital in early May to visit family.
Ikee’s diagnosis rocked the Japanese swimming community, as she had become the first-ever female Asian Games MVP just months earlier in Jakarta.
Still under treatment for leukemia, Ikee had enrolled as a student at Nihon University in its College of Sports Sciences this past April. The freestyle and fly ace was thus supporting her fellow teammates at the Student Championships.
Ikee was treated to a particularly impressive 100m fly performance by her friend Shinnosuke Ishikawa. Ishikawa produced a winning time of 51.11, a new lifetime best and a mark that falls just .11 outside the national record.
In his post-race interview, Ishikawa stated, “I have been training very hard as I know my teammate and classmate, Rikako Ikee would come back soon! I am so glad that has paid off!” Ikee was reportedly moved to tears hearing this in the stands. (Manichi)
Nihon University men’s team won its first title in 12 years, while the women’s team won its 3rd consecutive title. You can link to all of the recaps here.
Translation assistance provided by Rebecca Nishikawa- Roy.