The 2020 Heart of a Champion Award winner is Rikako Ikee of Japan, recognized for her indelible spirit, determination and contribution to leukemia and bone marrow transplant awareness.

The 2016 Olympic finalist and 2018 Asian Games MVP was diagnosed with leukemia in February of 2019 and spent the majority of last year in the hospital undergoing intensive treatments.

After more than 594 days away from competition, Ikee returned to racing at the Tokyo Special Swimming Tournament in August of this year, where she logged a 50m freestyle time of 26.32. The multi-national record holder followed that up with an even quicker 25.62 at Japan’s Student Swimming Championships the first weekend of October.

Last month Ikee’s Renaissance coach Isamu Nishizaki said the 20-year-old sprint ace is now performing the same workouts as her peers in practice. Additionally, the athlete/coach duo is aiming to add more events to her repertoire for 2021, revealing that the 100m free and 100m fly are now entering the picture.

Growing stronger every day, Ikee says now that she will keep options for Tokyo 2020 qualification open, giving swimmers everywhere inspiration that one can triumph over the toughest of circumstances.

Out of the pool, last month Ikee was honored with the prestigious Shinji Hattori Award by the Shinji Hattori Culture and Sports Foundation. The award is bestowed upon those who have been active in sports and music while also displaying courage.

She has also been a vocal spokesperson encouraging bone marrow donations within Japan and has been a motivating influence in not only accepting but embracing her post-leukemia looks.

In an SK-II campaign earlier this year, Ikee put her short hair and thin build on full display, saying, “These days, people around the world are having a tough time with all the anxiety,” she said. “I’ll be happy if this message gives even a little hope for my fellow athletes and anyone battling similar hardships.”

Transplant News Sharing // “Bone Marrow Transplants” – Google News from Source swimswam.com

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