Iki Rikako is back on the world stage with her winning smile after a cancer battle

Ikee Rikako is back World Aquatic Championships. And so is that bright smile of hers.

„I haven’t been excited to swim in front of fans in a long time,” Aiki told Us on Thursday (July 20) in Fukuoka, Japan, three days before the swim meet. „So I’m really excited.”

“The crowd is skewed towards the nationals, but I feel like when the foreign swimmers come here they are more interested in it.

„It looks like we’re not in Japan,” he told media outlets including Olympics.com in Japan.

Aiki turned 23 two weeks ago. At one point in her life — in February 2019, when she was diagnosed with leukemia — there were doubts she would make it this far.

Ever the fighter, Aiki made a dramatic recovery from cancer and qualified for the relays. Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021.

It was something she hadn’t really expected. Following her last race at the Games in her hometown — where she was pegged to be the golden girl until she fell ill — Aiki wept uncontrollably. It all came out.

the pain That pressure. expectations. Only she could understand the pain.

Even post-Tokyo 2020 is not happy. There was a constant struggle between what Ikee could do and what she wanted to do.

Slowly but surely, he regained the strength and physique that won him six titles and the MVP award at the 2018 Asian Games.

However, at last year’s trials for the 2022 World Championships in Budapest, Aiki missed the opportunity. Tears flowed – again.

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„Last year when I didn’t make the team, I peaked a week before the trials and once it started, I started to fade,” he recalled. „I wanted to fix this time, and I’d like to think I did.”

At last April’s nationals – which double as trials for the 2023 worlds – she earned redemption, winning the 50 and 100 meters in four races in the freestyle and butterfly to secure her spot on the team for Fukuoka and the Asian Games this September.

In Fukuoka – her first world championships since 2017 – she will be able to swim seven events, the aforementioned four and three relays.

Aiki says that he no longer remembers what his form was before the disease. She no longer had that bulletproof confidence.

However, she knew she had done everything she could for this meeting.

A few days during the training camp, Aiki trained with marathon swimmers by putting up to 7 km in the pool.

„I don’t believe in being honest as always,” said Aiki. „But even though I’m not confident, I know I’ve done my best in training and preparation.

“It would be a shame to do my best and not do better. If I can do that, I think I will rank high.

„So I have no hope. But I have done my best for this,” he said.

If Ikee wins one of her individual races, the Japan Swimming Federation will give her a ticket Paris 2024 Olympic GamesIt’s been his realistic, competitive goal since beating cancer.

Ikee’s campaign kicks off on Sunday with the 100m butterfly. He hopes the race will set the tone for his entire championship.

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„The 50 flies, I put more work into it than anything else. But the 100 flies on the first day will decide the meet.”

“That’s how I went to nationals with the 100 fly. It’s not about the result, but about how well I can swim to my satisfaction.

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