Swimming: After leukaemia battle, Japan star Rikako Ikee to return to racing, say local media

Ikee has documented her fight against the disease online, thanking her legions of fans for their support.
Ikee has documented her fight against the disease online, thanking her legions of fans for their support.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP/ REUTERS) - Japanese swimming star Rikako Ikee has registered for a competition in Tokyo this month, her first since her shock diagnosis with leukaemia last year, local media reported on Tuesday (Aug 11).

The 20-year-old was a strong favourite for 100-metre butterfly gold at her home Olympic Games before revealing last year that she had been diagnosed with leukaemia.

She was discharged from hospital in December after being hospitalised for about 10 months and resumed training in March.

Public broadcaster NHK and Kyodo News said on Tuesday that Ikee has registered for a 50-metre freestyle race organised by the Tokyo Swimming Association on August 29.

A spokesman for the association declined to comment, saying only that registration for the event was still open.

Ikee has documented her fight against the disease online, thanking her legions of fans for their support.

"It was a long and hard time," she said last year in a handwritten message posted on her Twitter account.

Ikee was also considered a contender for the Tokyo 2020 200m freestyle, but her diagnosis forced her to switch her focus to competing in the 2024 Olympics.

She has not said if she plans to rethink and compete in Tokyo next year, following the postponement of the Games because of the coronavirus.

She served as the key figure at a subdued year-to-go ceremony for the postponed Games last month, urging disheartened athletes not to lose faith.

"Think of the coming year not simply as a one-year postponement, but a plus-one," she said.

"To overcome adversity, what we need is hope, a flame of hope of glowing in the distance allows us to keep trying, to keep moving forward, no matter how hard it is."

Ikee, who won six titles at the 2018 Asian Games, spent 10 months in hospital battling the disease and has not swam competitively since January 2019.