Swimming

Japanese poster girl Ikee diagnosed with leukaemia

Japanese swim queen Rikako Ikee, the poster girl for next year's Tokyo Olympics, has been diagnosed with leukaemia, the 18-year-old tweeted yesterday.

In a shock announcement, Ikee said: "After feeling unwell, I returned in haste from Australia and following tests I was diagnosed with leukaemia.

"I still can't believe it myself, I'm in a state of confusion."

Ikee shot to fame at last year's Asian Games, where she captured a record six gold medals to fire a warning for the 2020 Olympics in her home city.

The teenage superstar, who holds a string of national records, has been tipped to push for gold on several fronts, in particular in the women's 100 metres butterfly.

Ikee told fans she was determined to beat her illness after being forced to abandon her training camp in Australia's Gold Coast.

"If treated properly it's a disease that can be beaten," said Ikee, who confirmed she will withdraw from the Japanese championships in April.

"I will devote myself to my treatment and strive to be able to show an even stronger Rikako Ikee."

Her coach Jiro Miki confessed he had never seen the swimmer struggle as much as she had while training in Australia.

"I had never seen her breathing as heavily as that," he said.

"We took her to a local hospital to check her blood and heart, but decided to return to Japan as quickly as possible to undergo further tests.

"But as for her motivation to beat this disease, I can only bow my head at her determination.

"She is not moping about. She is absolutely positive about beating this as quickly as possible."

Ikee stole the headlines from giant Chinese swimmer Sun Yang at the Asian Games in Jakarta, where she finished with eight medals in total. - AFP

OTHER SPORTS