Ikee Rikako to face 100 freestyle test in maiden meet of 2021

Rio 2016 Olympian set to venture beyond 50m for first time since August return. Hagino Kosuke also to appear at Kosuke Kitajima Cup this weekend.

By Shintaro Kano ·

Ikee Rikako is set to launch her Games-year campaign at the Kosuke Kitajima Cup in Tokyo this weekend.

Ikee is entered in the 100-metre freestyle on Saturday for the three-day meet at Tatsumi International Swimming Center.

It would mark the 20-year-old’s third competition since returning to the pool in August after overcoming the odds to beat leukemia.

In her first two comeback meets, Ikee raced in the 50 free. She had spoken about stretching out the distance in 2021 by working on her conditioning during the winter.

On Coming of Age Day earlier this month - which celebrates teens turning 20, the Japanese age of adulthoood - Ikee issued a statement signaling her commitment to the season ahead.

“A year ago, I couldn’t even imagine welcoming this day”, the Rio 2016 Olympian said.

“But now that I’m officially an adult, I will strive more than ever to be a stronger person and an athlete”.

Hagino to keep rising

Also at the event named in honour of the two-time double Olympic champion Kitajima, Rio 2016 gold medallist Hagino Kosuke is expected to appear in the two men’s individual medley races.

After a long agonizing slump post-Rio, Hagino showed signs of recapturing his golden form at the national championships in December by sweeping the 200 and 400 IM.

Ohashi Yui, world silver medallist in the women’s IM, is also scheduled to race as are Olympians Irie Ryosuke, Watanabe Kanako and Imai Runa.

Former breaststroke world record-holder Watanabe Ippei will pass this weekend to focus on next month’s Japan Open, a crucial stepping stone for the nationals in April that will double as the Tokyo 2020 trials.

Ikee, Hagino and anyone else eyeing the Games this summer will also enter in the Japan Open, as will Seto Daiya who will return after serving a non-swimming related suspension.

Seto has already qualified for the Games through his gold medals at the 2019 world championships.