Rikako Ikee celebrates with her gold medal after winning the women's 50-meter freestyle final at the Asian Games in Jakarta last August. Photo: REUTERS file

Japanese swimming star Ikee diagnosed with leukemia


Japanese swimmer Rikako Ikee, who won six titles at last year's Asian Games in Jakarta and was considered a strong medal contender for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, said on Tuesday she had been diagnosed with leukemia.

The 18-year-old was named Japanese Swimmer of the Year last month after her record-breaking exploits in the Jakarta pool.

"I was feeling ill and urgently came home from Australia, underwent testing and the diagnosis was leukemia," Ikee wrote on Twitter. "I can't believe it. I"m still in a state of confusion. But with treatment this is a disease that can be cured."

The diagnosis will deprive the world junior 50 meters freestyle, 50 meters butterfly and 100 meters butterfly champion of the chance to race at the senior world championships in Gwangju, South Korea later this year.

Ikee, who swam the fastest time in the world in the 100 meters butterfly and second fastest in the 50 meters butterfly last year, said she would miss Japan's swimming trials to focus on treatment.

"I am going to take some time off and focus on treatment and as soon as possible, I want to show an even stronger Rikako Ikee," she added.

Ikee's coach Jiro Miki held out hope she could compete in Tokyo, saying the "possibility was not zero", Kyodo News Agency reported.

"I'm told we wouldn't have been able to discover the disease in ordinary circumstances," Kyodo quoted Japan Swimming Federation Vice Chairman Koji Ueno as saying at a news conference. "We were able to find her irregularities because she was swimming. In that sense, we were able to find the disease early."

Only North Korean shooter So Gin Man, who won seven golds and a silver at New Delhi in 1982, has won more titles at one Asian Games than Ikee.

Ikee, whose gold medal haul was the most for a female athlete at a single Asian Games, also picked up two relay silvers to match So's record tally of eight medals.

Winning all six of her gold medals in record times in Jakarta propelled her onto the world stage and made her a major name in Japan. Coming home sixth in the 100 meters butterfly at the Rio Games as a 16-year-old, Ikee had been expected to compete for medals at Tokyo 2020 but must now focus on getting healthy before thoughts turn to the summer showpiece in 528 days' time.

After news of Ikee's illness broke, Japanese rugby player Ayumu Goromaru offered words of support on Twitter, telling her to "Strive on," while former Olympic swimmer Hanae Ito said: "Everyone is praying".

© Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Got to hate cancer, an awful disease. I wish you all the strength and more for this fight. x Go kick its butt Rikako!

19 ( +21 / -2 )

How sad. I hope she has a speedy recovery.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

It's sad to think that the sport she loves and is so good at could be the cause of this horrible disease.

-13 ( +3 / -16 )

Praying God to save her. How sad :-(

-1 ( +7 / -8 )

This is sad. Especially after you put in so much work and time. To know that something like this slows down your career when you are on top is a difficult thing. I hope she comes back in top fighting form. She was ready to do even bigger things.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

It's sad to think that the sport she loves and is so good at could be the cause of this horrible disease.

Swimming causes leukemia?

Joe , just stop and think for a minute before write something like that. It is not funny.

It is good to see that Ikee has a positive attitude at least

Quote. " But with treatment, this is a disease that can be cured."

She was a regular customer at the restaurant where my daughter works in the Gold Coast and very open and friendly with staff there.

Wishing her a fast and complete recovery.


3 ( +8 / -5 )


I'm not trying to be funny--I'm serious. There are several ailments related to the exposure of pool water chemicals, and cancer hasn't been ruled out.

I, too, wish her a speedy recovery.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

It's sad to think that the sport she loves and is so good at could be the cause of this horrible disease.

Swimming causes leukemia?

Joe , just stop and think for a minute before write something like that. It is not funny.

Swimming pool chemicals may cause cancer risk:


3 ( +6 / -3 )

@ joe

I have heard about that. It was huge back in 2010. But many pool companies hired their own researchers to post findings. Because something like that could open them up to a lot of liability. The pool doctors said chlorine in pools don’t cause cancer but it can react with cancerous cells.

Anyway, these days, studies seem to say everything causes cancer.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Ugh, time to find a proper cure for this nasty disease. Hope she will kick its ugly butt. Poor girl.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Unfortunate. Here's hoping for a speedy recovery.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

It always saddens me when one so young is diagnosed with such a condition. Get well soon along with all young people who are suffering too.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

What a shocking news. No doubt she is one of the best swimmer in Japan. Pls focus on treatment and I hope we can see her swimming with smile again.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Man, I wish her the best of luck. Hope she comes to a full recovery.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Well that's a shock. I hope she responds well to treatment and finds a marrow donor quickly if that's what she needs. Perhaps the silver lining can be more people registering as donors.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

We've all lost loved ones to cancer. A friend of mine has leukemia and is still a positive, lively person. I admire his strength and all those who are suffering.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

It's sad to think that the sport she loves and is so good at could be the cause of this horrible disease

And so cold be Lawson' s karage, sodas, juice, food, pretty much anything we come in contact with. I've been a swimmer my whole life and so far I've got no cancer.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I feel really sad, vexed, and worried for her, seeing this news, as I'm her big fan.

Besides, she's a hope for Gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, for Japan.

I'll be hoping for the success of the treatment and for her full recovery.

池江選手、頑張って(Ikee Senshu Ganbatte)!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Stay strong and get well

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Hoping for the best as she takes on cancer. She is a strong person and can come out stronger after the fight.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

My wife, was diagnosed with leukemia, the worst of all: PhAll.

That was in just now 5 years ago, Valentine day 2014. With Japanese doctors, she has survived it without bone marrow transplant.

With the medications, that keep her alive, she has been open to all other diseases, always something wrong.

After several nasty kill-you illnesses, today she is with water in her lungs. An invalid, for life time.

What a dreadful situation.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

A woman of extreme courage and determination. I hope she can beat it.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

She's going to have to get through a lot of tough treatments to get through this. I wish her well.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Poor journalism. What kind of leukemia does she have? There are various forms and they are not equal.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

To someone above who protested about "swimming causing cancer" let me fill you in on a little-known fact: there is a type of brain tumor that often affects surfers who surf in unclean waters.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

She is young and with her positive attitude, she will fight off this life-taking illness. Hope the best for her and family.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Very sad, only 18 years old with such a bright future.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Old man: you act as though it’s a death sentence.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Very sad news and I do hope that she has gone for a second opinion outside of Japan.

Last year I had the terrible misfortune of being diagnosed with T-PLL (T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia) not long after a bout of pneumonia. My blood results after one month had normalised completely and few were slightly over normal. The Lung specialist passed me off onto the blood department (in a prestigious University hospital) who immediately pronounced I had Chronic Leukemia. Requests for more specialised tests were done including a marrow extract from my hip and 3 weeks later I had an "upgraded" diagnosis to the very aggressive T-PLL which if you google it, apparently kills you within a year of diagnosis. They too wanted to start treatment asap. Fortunately a family member arranged for a consultation with the top specialist in London for this particular rare form of Leukemia. After extensive blood work was done...the diagnosis was that I had absolutely no form of any Leukaemia and my blood results were symptomatic of the pneumonia I had had previously. My blood results soon after this returned to normal as my London specialist predicted and almost exactly a year later to the day I am as strong as I have ever been and completely healthy. I have always raved previously about receiving medical treatment in Japan but this last episode has left me very skeptical indeed.

The point I wanted to make was if you are diagnosed with something as serious as this you absolutely have to get a second opinion and preferably one outside of Japan. I just read a follow up report that Ikea has already begun treatment here which sounds to me like she has not gone for a second opinion which I find personally disturbing if that is the case.

Having been in the position of thinking I had such a disease I can tell you that Ikea-san is going through a mental nightmare at the moment and I wish her only the very best on her road to a full recovery. Think positively Ikea-san.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'd be interested in hearing from those who downvoted my comment as to why they have an issue with it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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