Watch Rikako Ikee’s First Race Back As Leukemia Survivor


Rikako Ikee appears in event 12 at 38:33.

20-year-old Japanese sprinting star Rikako Ikee dove in for the first time in 594 days tonight in Tokyo, with the leukemia survivor competing at the inaugural Tokyo Special Swimming Tournament.

Racing the women’s 50m freestyle, Ikee posted a timed final effort of 26.32 for her inspirational return with just a few months of training under her belt.

Ikee swam in lane 3 of heat 5 and got to the wall first, looking smooth and controlled to win her heat. She wound up placing 5th overall in the senior classification of the event.

Ikee is still in rehabilitation mode after having spent nearly a year in the hospital undergoing treatments for acute lymphocytic leukemia. Just months after having earned the first-ever MVP title at an Asian Games in 2018, Ikee revealed her diagnosis in February of 2019 and was only released from the hospital in December of that year after intense chemotherapy treatments.

Last month the 2018 Pan Pacs champion said she had been able to build up to 4 workouts a week in the pool in addition to weight sessions.

Since her careful return to both pool and gym, the teen has switched up coaches, leaving previous mentor Jiro Miki for Isamu Nishizaki, a coach at Renaissance. Nishizaki joined Renaissance in 2000 and served as the Japanese National Team coach at the 2015 Junior Pan Pacific Championships.

Ikee owns the Japanese national record in this 50m free event, among others, with her lifetime best of 24.21 she produced at the 2018 Japan Swim. As a significant milestone, her time tonight was enough to qualify the Olympian for the Japan Student Championships slated for October with her 26.32 effort dipping under the 26.86 qualifying mark.

Through her management company, Ikee said of her racing tonight in Tokyo, “As I walked by the pool I shed tears.”

She said she is using this race “to check my current ability, which I have been practicing for the past few months.”

Ikee candidly revealed, “I have been struggling with my illness every day so I hope people who are fighting against my illness and who have always supported me will see my race and think positively.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do.”

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1 year ago


1 year ago

What a fighter – thank you for being such an inspiration Rikako!

1 year ago

Amazing xxx

1 year ago

It makes a nice change to wake up to something heartwarming after the past 6 months. Great to see Rikako back.

1 year ago

What a queen. Nothing but love for her.

1 year ago

That’s not a bad time at all considering she had Leukemia and lost nearly all her muscle! It’ll be good to see how she does next year in Tokyo

Reply to  PVSFree
1 year ago

Right? I haven’t been in the water since March (approx. 1 year less than Ikee) but have been healthy and working out the whole time but I’d still be thrilled to be two seconds off my best 50 free time right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if she makes the team at this rate, which would be a huge accomplishment in itself. The bigger question now to me is will she make some finals? I think she has a good shot.

Don’t let me focus too much on times, though, the most important thing is that she is healthy. It’s been really tough to see young people like her and Nathan Adrian having to deal with cancer. It’s incredible that… Read more »

Ikee Fan
1 year ago

What an inspiration!

1 year ago

So happy for Rikako! Good luck, we’re all cheering for you!

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Swim analyst, businesswoman.

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