Ikee Rikako punches solo ticket to Asian Games in 50m fly

On the opening day of the Japanese swimming national championships, the two-time Olympian bounces back from last month's disappointment of not qualifying for the Worlds in Budapest. 

By Shintaro Kano
Picture by Yomiuri

Ikee Rikako produced her fastest 50-metre butterfly since beating cancer two years ago on the opening day of the Japanese swimming national championships on Thursday (28 April).

The 21-year-old clocked 25.49 seconds and qualified for the Asian Games in September in the process, swimming under the standard of 25.66. Ikee was the MVP of the last Asian Games in 2018 after capturing six titles.

"I'm going all in for the Asian Games", Ikee said at the Yokohama International Swimming Pool. "One of my goals for the year was to make the team in individual races so I'm happy I achieved that.

"The last time I was overseas was like four years ago. I have to start from scratch again, figure out how to maintain my routine while I'm abroad so I can be competitive again outside Japan.

"If I swim to the best of my ability then I'll get the results I want".

Last month at the Japanese trials, the two-time Olympian missed the cut for this summer's World championships in Budapest, Hungary, as she failed to make her times despite winning two of three races - the 100m freestyle and 100m fly.

It was a massive disappointment for Ikee, who was fully expecting to qualify individually for the Worlds taking place nearly a year after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

At the home Games she made two relay teams - only seven months after returning to competition from a bout with leukemia.

Ikee Rikako: I learned from my mistakes

Ikee wanted to swim so fast at last month's trials, she ended up tying herself into a knot.

"I learned from my mistakes at the trials. I reminded myself how it does me no good to press and I'm glad I found a way to adjust", she said.

"I was determined not to screw up again like at the trials. It's my fastest race since I came back and I gave this everything I have.

"There's still a lot of room for me to improve. I just need to be patient and take my time with things".

Ikee - who is eyeing her first elusive Olympic medal at Paris 2024 - said she had to get out of her head to be competitive at these nationals, which runs through Sunday.

"I think the biggest adjustment I made from the trials was mental. Physically, I actually felt better at the trials than I do now.

"At the trials, I was trying so hard to swim for a fast time and it backfired. That was the lesson... It felt like two, three months since the trials. I managed to get in a lot of good training.

"In 2018, I was breaking records left, right and center. I was fast whether I didn't warm up or cool down. From that I went to zero. And then after coming back, I somehow qualified for the Olympics and that really wore me out, emotionally.

"For the trials for the world championships, I thought I had improved after a year but it didn't work out. But it wasn't going to happen again".

Seto Daiya clocks global season best in men's 400m IM

In other races, three-time world champion Seto Daiya unleashed the world's season best in the 400m individual medley with a 4:09.07, topping Duncan Scott's 4:09.18 to defend his title.

Seto has made the team for Budapest.

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