Ikee stays optimistic for tough cancer treatment

TOKYO • Japanese swimmer Rikako Ikee, considered a medal contender for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics before being diagnosed with leukaemia in February, said yesterday her treatment is proceeding smoothly but sometimes she feels her "heart might break".

She won six golds at last year's Asian Games to became the first female athlete to be named the Most Valuable Player.

Her rich haul in the Jakarta pool propelled her onto the world stage and she was expected to lead a new generation of swimmers at their home Olympics.

While announcing her diagnosis, the 18-year-old said she "couldn't believe it" and she has since been concentrating on treatment, although no details about her illness have been released.

In March, she said on Twitter: "This is dozens of times, hundreds of times, thousands of times harder than I thought. I've had many times where I haven't been able to eat for three days or more. But I won't give up."

Yesterday, using a new website, Ikee thanked fans for their messages of support and said her treatment was going smoothly but things were occasionally tough.

"I look outside every day and think that the wind in this season must feel good, and that I'd like to feel the rain, this has become something to look forward to once I'm released," she said in a handwritten statement on the site.

"It's going to be a long hospitalisation and long treatment, but I think of what I want to do when I get out and am staying positive."

She added that she was spending her time doing puzzles, watching movies and other things she usually does not have time for.

"Sometimes it feels as if my heart might break, but all the things people have said help cheer me on, and builds up the feeling that I want to keep on fighting," she said.

Ikee's coach believes Ikee could still compete in Tokyo 2020, which start in late July. But she will miss the world championships in Gwangju, South Korea, this July.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2019, with the headline 'Ikee stays optimistic for tough cancer treatment'. Print Edition | Subscribe