Rikako Ikee Makes First International Podium Since Beating Leukemia


The first stop of the 2023 Mare Nostrum Tour wrapped up from Canet over the weekend.

We saw some impressive performances on both the men’s and women’s side of the World Championships-qualifying event, including a swift 24.02 50m freestyle by Sweden’s Sarah Sjotrom, a new Hong Kong national record of 24.56 in the same event by Siobhan Haughey, as well a solid 1:55.09 200m fly by Japan’s Tomoru Honda.

Lost in the shuffle, however, was a monumental achievement from Japan’s two-time Olympian Rikako Ikee

Racing in the women’s 50m fly, 22-year-old Ikee placed third in a time of 25.89. Although the outing was off her season-best of 25.59 produced last month, Ikee’s result in Canet represented her first time making an international podium since returning to the pool after her battle with leukemia.

In Canet, Ikee finished behind winner Sjostrom of Sweden (25.24) and runner-up Melanie Henique of France (25.77).

Along with Canadian Maggie MacNeil and Australian Emma McKeon, Sjostrom was one of three swimmers who honored Ikee with a written message displayed on the women’s 100m fly podium at the 2019 World Championships.

courtesy of Rikako Ikee IG

Ikee has been racing domestically over the past 2+ years, taking part in her first comeback meet of the Tokyo Special Swimming Tournament in August 2020. Her participation came after spending nearly the entire year of 2019 in the hospital undergoing intense treatments.

She continued gaining strength both in and out of the pool, remarkably making Japan’s Olympic team for the postponed 2020 Games. Ikee ultimately helped the women’s 4x100m free and mixed medley relays place 9th, as well as the women’s 4x100m medley relay finish 8th at the Tokyo Games.

Ikee wound up taking most of 2022 off of racing, forgoing last year’s World Championships in Budapest as well as the Short Course World Championships in Melbourne.

The freestyle and butterfly specialist did race at last month’s Japan Championships where she claimed an impressive four individual titles across the 50m/100m fly and 50m/100m free. As a result, she was named to her nation’s roster for this summer’s World Championships set to take place on her home soil this July.

Making her first international podium this weekend, therefore, represents a major confidence boost for the woman who has inspired the worldwide swimming community.

“I want to prove that Ikee has returned to the world,” she said to the media after the race.

Ikee will also partake in the remaining two stops of the Mare Nostrum Tour which includes Barcelona on May 17th & 18th as well as Monaco on May 20th & 21st.

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Tracy S
4 months ago


4 months ago

What a champion. Love to see this. Also love that 2019 podium solidarity.

Reply to  Abcdefg
4 months ago

A favourite moment.

4 months ago

big W

4 months ago

damn onions!

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Former Masters swimmer and coach Loretta (Retta) thrives on a non-stop but productive schedule. Nowadays, that includes having just earned her MBA while working full-time in IT while owning French 75 Boutique while also providing swimming insight for BBC.

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