Japanese swimming star Rikako Ikee continues to remain in her nation’s mind even while out of the pool battling leukemia.
In a public poll conducted by Oricon, the 19-year-old freestyle and butterfly ace has been voted the most popular female athlete in Japan, moving up from her #2 slot from 2018 when she was named the first-ever female Asian Games MVP. In fact, she and tennis dynamo Naomi Osaka flipped places, with the 2018 U.S. Open tennis champion relegated to runner-up from last year to 2019.
For the men, Los Angeles Angels’ pitcher Shohei Otani was ranked overall most popular athlete, but World Championships double gold medalist swimmer Daiya Seto made the list at #10.
Ikee announced her leukemia diagnosis publicly in February of this year and has been undergoing treatment in the hospital ever since. She has been keeping fans and fellow members of the swimming community updated via her official website and even enrolled in Nihon University’s College of Sports Sciences, despite undergoing treatments.Ikee’s latest website post from her family, dated October 3rd, is roughly translated to the following:
Thank you to everyone who has always supported Rikao Ikee. She is still in treatment at the hospital. She will have a lot of experience enduring painful treatment and putting everything she has into the fight against the disease at just 19 years of age.
She is working hard to be able to return to her original life as soon as possible. Your warm words and support are a great encouragement for her and her family.
Her website, which you can reach here, enables visitors to click on a heart icon in order to show support, with individual users only being able to click once. As of publishing, Ikee’s site has logged more than 1 million hearts of support.
Translation assistance provided by Rebecca Nishikawa- Roy.