Rikako Ikee, one of Japan’s most talented swimmers and a contender for multiple medals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, has been diagnosed with leukemia.
The 18-year-old, who was named Japanese Swimmer of the Year last month, won six gold medals at last year’s Asian Games and had been expected to challenge for honors at her home Olympics.
“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, it’s a confusing situation. But with treatment this is a disease that can be cured.”
Ikee, the world junior champion in 50 meter freestyle, 50m butterfly and 100m butterfly, will miss the opportunity to compete at the senior Swimming World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, in July.
The teenager, who swam the fastest 100m butterfly and second fastest 50m butterfly in the world last year, says she will now focus on her recovery.
“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 six gold medal haul is the most won by a female athlete at a single Asian Games. She also won two silvers to add to her collection.
North Korean shooter So Gin Man, who won seven golds and a silver at New Delhi in 1982, is the only athlete to have won more titles at one Asian Games than Ikee.