Six-time Asian Games gold medallist Rikako Ikee has returned to competitive swimming after recovering from leukemia earlier this year.
Ikee put swimming on hold last year when she revealed that she had acute lymphatic leukemia in February 2019 and has not competed in a race since January 2019.
The Japanese star made her return to competition on Saturday (August 29) by competing in the women’s 50 metres freestyle event at the Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Centre.
She achieved a time of 26.32 seconds to place fifth in her event.
“I feel like I'm starting a new chapter in my swimming career," Ikee said, according to Japanese news agency Kyodo News.
"It's a good way to start.
"I was extremely nervous, but I still blew past my target.
"I recognised many areas for improvement.
“If I can iron those out, my results will get better in leaps and bounds."
The meet was organised by the Tokyo Swimming Association, with the aim of providing swimmers with a chance to compete following the cancellation of events meets due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ikee was considered the poster girl for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, following her success at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang.
The 20-year-old secured gold in the women’s 50 metres and 100m freestyle events at the Games, as well as triumphing in both the 50m and 100m butterfly.
She was also a member of Japan’s gold medal winning teams in the 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley events, as well as earning two further relay silver medals.
Ikee’s achievements saw her named as the Most Valuable Player at the Games.
Ikee gave an emotional speech as part of the one-year-to-go countdown for the rescheduled opening of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which are due to begin on July 23 2021.
Her inspiring story of returning to training after her cancer recovery was told through a message of hope, and she asked viewers to be positive about the postponement of the Games.