Ikee Rikako clocks fastest semi-final time in 50m freestyle at Japanese swimming trials

The 20-year-old cancer survivor looks to qualify for third event of Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021.

By Shintaro Kano
Picture by 2021 Kyodo News

Ikee Rikako heads into the last day of the Japanese swimming trials for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021 as the fastest finalist in the 50-metre freestyle.

Gunning for her first individual qualification of the meet, on Friday (9 April) Ikee posted the fastest semi-final time of 24.87 seconds - a national student record.

Ikee was the only swimmer to break 25. She needs a 24.46 in Saturday’s final to qualify for her third event at Tokyo 2020.

Ikee is the Japan record-holder with a 24.21

The 20-year-old has qualified for two relays here, the 4x100 medley and 4x100 freestyle.

That alone is a remarkable feat considering she only returned to competition seven months ago following her leukemia diagnosis in February 2019.

Ikee Rikako heads to Saturday's 50m freestyle final with the top semi-final time of 24.87 seconds.
Picture by Yomiuri

A day earlier Ikee admitted to feeling fatigued from the six races she has swam but on Friday felt better than she was expecting.

“I thought I would really be feeling it today but I didn’t feel that badly”, Ikee said.

“And I was reminded once again how fun the 50 free is”.

On Saturday, she will also be swimming the 50 butterfly, a non-Olympic event.

Ikee said she has been struggling to keep warm at Tokyo Aquatics Centre, the venue that will be used for the Games.

The Tokyo native said the two fly races should help her warm up for the free.

“I have three more races tomorrow. I’m swimming the 50 free last so I’ll save myself for that.

“I feel really good all things considered. I hope I can wrap up the meet on a positive note. I might be tired physically but my goal for this competition has been to empty the tank each and every time I swim” - Ikee Rikako.

Four more qualify in M100 fly, W800 free

On the seventh day of the national championships at Tokyo Aquatics Centre, four grabbed a spot on the team.

Mizunuma Naoki and Kawamoto Takeshi qualified from the men’s 100 butterfly while Namba Miyu and Kobori Waka made it in the 800 freestyle.

Kawamoto had tied the Japanese record of 51.00 second in his semi-final but slowed down in the final to a 51.25 behind Mizunuma’s time of 51.03.

Namba punched her ticket in 8:26.61 as Kobori trailed by 0.06.