IKEE Rikako's Tokyo 2020 comes to end - in tears, and as prelude to Paris 2024

TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 01: Rikako Ikee of Team Japan competes in the Women's 4 x 100m Medley Relay Final  on day nine of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on August 01, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 01: Rikako Ikee of Team Japan competes in the Women's 4 x 100m Medley Relay Final on day nine of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on August 01, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Ikee, Japan finish 8th in 4x100m medley relay in Ikee's first and only final of Games. The two-time Olympian eyes return to contention in three years' time.

The tears flowing down her face said it all.

Since being diagnosed with leukemia in February 2019, IKEE Rikako has managed to keep a brave face when in the public eye for the most part, usually with that electric, made-for-TV smile.

But on Sunday (1 August), she let go. All of it.

Ikee's Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games came to an end on the final day of the swimming competition with the 4x100-metre medley relay, in which Japan finished last in 3 minutes, 58.12 seconds.

It was her first and only final of these Games after failing to qualify in two other relays, the freestyle and mixed medley. She did not enter in an individual race.

After coming out of the pool at Tokyo Aquatics Centre surrounded by teammates KONISHI Anna, WATANABE Kanako and IGARASHI Chihiro, Ikee gushed with emotion, all kinds of it.

"Not making the final on the very first day had been eating me up all week", Ikee said exclusively to olympics.com.

"To be able to compete in a final on the last day of competition was fun and to swim the butterfly twice, on this stage, has given me so much confidence.

"My time in the final was disappointing but I toughed it out. I hope I can build on this in training and for future meets".

Tokyo 2020 was supposed to be Ikee's time. Then it wasn't. Then it was back on, after she miraculously made the team in April - only eight months after returning to competitive swimming.

Even Ikee herself didn't think it was possible. Following treatment to silence unrealistic public expectations that would come, she repeatedly insisted she was aiming to return to the Games in Paris in 2024.

But Ikee did it, qualifying for an Olympic Games in her hometown. She first beat cancer, then she beat the odds. On Sunday, she didn't beat anyone - but she won.

"These last few years... Sorry...", Ikee said, as she broke down.

"I got dragged down to the lowest point of my entire life. I had given up on the Tokyo Olympics. I never, ever thought I would be competing again this soon, let alone be at the Olympics.

"I am, from the bottom of my heart, so grateful to be back at the Games again".

Earlier this week Ikee said physically, she is around 80 per cent of the form that won her the 2018 Asian Games MVP after making her Games debut as a high-schooler at Rio 2016 - in a Japan record of seven events.

With the next Summer Games only three years away due to the Tokyo 2020 postponement, Ikee's goal in Paris is to be in medal contention, not just qualify.

And who would doubt her, after all that she has overcome.

"For Paris, my No. 1 goal is to compete - and compete well - in the 100 fly again", she said. "The challenge for me now is how far I can go from here.

"The Olympics is a dream to me and I want to not only qualify but perform on this stage. That is my bar and I’m going to keep working towards it".