From Defeating Leukemia to Competing in the Olympics: Rikako Ikee’s Phenomenal Comeback

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rikako ikee

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

– Rikako Ikee

21-year-old Rikako Ikee is a Japanese professional swimmer who specializes in butterfly stroke. Rikako was destined for a life in water, as she was welcomed into the world via water birth in their family home. She began swimming at age 3 and within 2 years was able to swim all 5 strokes gracefully, proving to be a natural prodigy. 

Early career

Ikee won the gold medals in the 50 and 100m butterfly events at the 2015 FINA World Junior Swimming Championships, breaking the Championships record in both. She also won the silver medal in the 50m freestyle and finished 4th in the 100m freestyle. 

Rikako Ikee

At the 2015 World Cup, Ikee broke the senior Japanese record in the 100m butterfly and the junior world record in the 50m butterfly event (both long course). She won both those events, as well as the 100m  freestyle. At 16, Ikee made her Olympics debut at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and qualified for seven different events – the largest number among the Japanese swimmers- but failed to win a medal. 

Ikee at the 2018 Asian Games

It was at the 2018 Asian Games where Ikee demonstrated brilliant skill and delivered her best performances yet. She became the first swimmer ever to win 6 gold medals at a single Asian Games. She also won 2 silver medals and was voted the Most Valuable Player at the tournament. This was a first for a female athlete in history, says The Bridge.

Leukemia diagnosis

At the peak of her career, Rikako Ikee was unfortunately diagnosed with leukemia in February of 2019. She spent 10 months in the hospital and lost 15kgs due to chemotherapy. Yet, in poor physical and emotional condition, Rikako promised that she would be back in the pool very soon. And that’s exactly what she did. At the age of 20, Leukemia survivor Rikako Ikee performed at the 2020 Japanese Olympic Qualifiers, where she won two spots in two relay teams. It was her first competitive swim in 406 days, says The Olympics website. Safe to say, it doesn’t get more badass than this. Ikee is the embodiment of strength and perseverance. 

Ikee during recovery

Tokyo Olympics

Rikako Ikee made her spectacular comeback at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics this year, where she was chosen to lead the opening ceremony. In her speech, she outlined her journey with her cancer diagnosis and the strength she received from fellow athletes that helped her push through. “It was the thought of swimming in a pool again helped me get through panful medical treatment,” she added.

She competed in the 4*100m freestyle relay, in which the Japanese team finished 8th in Tokyo. She may not have an Olympic medal yet, but it hardly matches up to the journey she has had. Rikako Ikee is a symbol of hope, courage, positivity, and perseverance. We bow down to her awe-inspiring ability to never give up on her goals. Rikako Ikee, you are a legend beyond legends.  

#GCPWishesRikakoIkee #GCPAWishesOlympians

Team Global Child Prodigy Congratulates Rikako Ikee for her participation in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and wishes her the best of health. This will inspire millions of people worldwide, including children who aspire to be like her. 

We are on a mission to recognize Child prodigies across the world in all domains. Do let us know in the comment section if you know any such kid, deserves to be on the top 100 Child Prodigies list. Or you can directly apply For Global Child Prodigy Award 2021 from the link below.

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