Ikee Rikako wins fourth title at Japanese swimming trials but fails to qualify for third event at Games

The 20-year-old claimed the 50m freestyle event but just missed out on individual qualification with a 24.84 as national championships draw to a close.

By Shintaro Kano

Ikee Rikako won the 50-metre freestyle, her fourth title in as many events at the Japanese swimming trials for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021, but fell short of qualifying individually.

The eight-day meet came to an end on Saturday (10 April), when the 20-year-old touched the wall first in 24.84 seconds - falling short of the 24.46 qualifying time.

Ikee lit up these national championships by qualifying for two relays after only returning to competition seven months ago, following her leukemia diagnosis in February 2019.

“I was a little worried but determined to win at the same time,” Ikee said.

“When I left the dressing room I told my coach that I was going to win and I managed to back it up, which I’m happy about."

Ahead of the freestyle event, she won the 50m butterfly in 25.56 seconds, a non-Olympic event.

At this competition, Ikee qualified for two relays - the 4x100 medley through the 100 butterfly as well as the 4x100 freestyle.

“I’m thrilled I won four titles here,” Ikee said. “Overall, I thought my times were very good.

“I went into these national championships with an attitude I didn’t have in the past.

“I think I’m getting closer and closer to breaking the Japan records I have. Might not happen right away but I’m getting there.”

Ikee Rikako in the 50-metre freestyle, making it 4-for-4 at the Japanese Olympic swimming trials that ended on Saturday.
Picture by 2021 Kyodo News

Ikee is on her way to her second successive Games.

She will be busy from the very first day of the Tokyo 2020 swimming competition with the heats of both relays scheduled for 24 July.

The day will get even busier should the Japan Swimming Federation give her the individual swim in the 100 butterfly, which is also pencilled in that day.

Ikee, though, believes the trials gave her a good feel for what could be an unexpectedly busy summer.

“Up until now, I’ve been sticking to two-day meets with a maximum of four races since I came back,” she said.

“The days were long here. Eleven races including semi-finals with the pressure of having to record pretty good times.

“But I’m really glad I fought through to the end - and won.

“I’m pretty sure the fatigue will hit me hard soon. But more than that, I want to give myself a pat on the back.”