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SWIMMING/ Ikee moves step closer to winning ticket for Paris Olympics

时间:2024-07-26 00:07:41 出处:阅读(143)

SWIMMING/ Ikee moves step closer to winning ticket for Paris Olympics

By TAKERU FUJIKI/ Staff Writer

March 18, 2024 at 16:58 JST

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Photo/IllutrationRikako Ikee after finishing second in the women’s 100-meter butterfly preliminaries at the Japan Swimming Federation’s race to select Olympic team members on March 17 at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre (Takuya Tanabe)

  • Photo/Illutration
  • Photo/Illutration

Swimmer Rikako Ikee on March 17 posted her best time in the women’s 100-meter butterfly since her leukemia diagnosis, putting her in a good position to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Ikee was the top overall swimmer to advance to the March 18 finals of the Japan Swimming Federation’s event to select national team members.

She clocked 57.54 seconds in the preliminaries and improved to 57.03 seconds in the semifinals. That time surpassed the standard of 57.34 set by the federation for sending athletes to the Paris Olympics.

If she finishes in the top two in the finals and exceeds the standard, she will make the Olympic team in an individual event for the first time in two Games.

“I am not aiming just to break the standard but to go even further than that,” Ikee said. “But it is a step that proves I am finally back.”

Last fall, she fulfilled her promise to return to Australia to train under the guidance of renowned coach Michael Bohl.

In February 2019, during a training camp in Australia also under Bohl, Ikee complained of a health condition that was later diagnosed as leukemia.

Ikee said Bohl was concerned that it was his fault that she fell sick.

After returning to Australia last year, she said, “I’m glad that I was able to tell him that it wasn’t.”

Bohl, an Australian who has coached many top swimmers, always offers positive words of encouragement, Ikee said.

“When he says, ‘You can do it,’ or ‘You can swim in (under a certain number of) seconds,’ I feel like I can do it, too,” she said. “We have a good relationship, and it has helped me regain my confidence.”

In practice, Ikee trains with top swimmers, including Australian Emma McKeon, who won four gold medals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Ikee says practicing with top swimmers helps her overcome feelings that she is not strong enough.

“I feel that I can become stronger just by having the desire to catch up with those athletes,” she said.

Ikee uses a flea metaphor to refer to her attempt to become No. 1 in the world once again.

“When a flea is trapped in a jar with a lid, it can no longer jump to reach the lid,” she said. “But when the lid is removed and it starts jumping with other fleas, it can jump higher again.”

On March 17 four years ago, Ikee entered the pool for the first time since announcing her illness.

She said that winning the finals and qualifying for the Paris Olympics would erase the doubts she had about herself in 2019.

“I want to go back in time and tell myself of four years ago, ‘You did it,’” Ikee said.

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