Rikako Ikee: The Japanese swimmer who beat cancer to qualify for 2021 Olympics

Japanese swimmer Rikako Ikee celebrates after winning the women's 100-meter butterfly at the Japan’s national championships at Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo on April 4, 2021. - AP

20-year-old Japanese swimmer Rikako Ikee was diagnosed with leukemia two years back. However, this gutsy star has defied all odds to qualify for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics!

She began training for the Olympics in March 2020 after spending 10 months undergoing treatment for cancer. Her aim was to prepare for the 2024 Olympics in Paris, France and she did not really intend to participate in the upcoming Olympics.

At the trials for the 2021 Olympics, however, Ikee won the 100-meter butterfly event, finishing the race in 57.77 seconds to qualify for the 4X100 medley relay in the upcoming Games.

After the race, the 20-year-old pumped her fist into the air and broke down in tears, clearly overwhelmed. She was then enveloped in a hug by her opponent in a lane next to hers.

“I was not expecting to win the 100 meters at all, and I was feeling far less confident than during the Olympic qualifiers five years ago,” Ikee said following the race, according to the Associated Press.

“I thought I wouldn’t be able to win for a long time. But I trained hard to win. And, in the end, I came into the race telling myself I’m back. And so I feel that, even if you go through suffering and pain, your hard work will always be rewarded.”

In February, she told Japanese news channel TV Asahi that she felt lucky just to be alive.

“It’s a miracle just to be sitting here – it’s a miracle I’m alive,” she said, adding that her diagnosis was a “big turning point in my life.”

Ikee is a stellar swimmer and was one of the favorites to win the medal at the Tokyo Olympics. She won six gold medals in 2018 at the Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, which included the 50- and 100-meter freestyle, and the 50- and 100-meter butterfly. She also won gold in two relays, and added two silvers. She finished sixth in the 100-meter butterfly in the 2016 Rio de Janiero Olympics.

Isn’t this testimony to the fact that nothing can stop you if you are determined enough? What do you think? Let us know your views in the comments section below.

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