Japanese superstar and Tokyo 2020 medal hope Rikako Ikee has been diagnosed with leukemia, per a tweet published by the 18-year-old today, February 12th.
The multiple national record holder and 2018 Asian Games MVP stated, “I still can’t believe it and am in a state of confusion. But it’s also a disease that can be fully cured if treated properly.”
— 池江 璃花子 (@rikakoikee) February 12, 2019
According to Masaaki Yoshida, a vice chairman with her corporate sponsor Renaissance, Ikee is now hospitalized and doctors believe they have discovered the disease at its early stages. (Japan Times)
Ikee had been in Australia training alongside Brit Alys Thomas and Aussie Emma McKeon, but apparently cut that camp short and returned to Japan when the leukemia diagnosis was discovered. Her coach Jiro Miki said Ikee appeared to be fatigued and he said he ‘had never seen her breathing as heavily as that’ while training down under.
“We took her to a local hospital to check her blood and heart but decided to return to Japan as quickly as possible to undergo further tests,” Miki stated. “But as for her motivation to beat this disease, I can only bow my head at her determination.”
As for immediate plans, “I will rest a little and dedicate myself to treatment,” Ikee said. “I will strive to show you an even stronger version of myself. Thank you for your encouragement and warm thoughts.”
Ikee was poised to take multiple titles at this April’s Japanese Championships, the qualifying meet for the 2019 FINA World Championships. However, she will instead be undergoing treatment.
“I’m utterly taken back,” said Yasuhiro Yamashita, the Japanese Olympic Committee’s head of development. “She still has great potential, an athlete who could power the world of Japanese sports. The first priority is thoroughly treating this disease.” (Japan Times)
Her coach, Jiro Miki said Tokyo 2020 was not entirely out of the question, but Japan Swimming Federation Vice Chairman Koji Ueno said, “We’re not considering any special (qualifying) exemptions for her.” (Japan Times)
“I’m told we wouldn’t have been able to discover the disease in ordinary circumstances,” Ueno said. “We were able to find her irregularities because she was swimming. In that sense, we were able to find the disease early.”