Japanese swimming star Rikako Ikee has been diagnosed with leukemia less than 18 months before the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The 18-year-old Ikee won six gold medals at the Asian Games in Jakarta last year and was tipped to be one of the faces of the 2020 Olympics in her home country.
She posted on her verified Twitter account on Tuesday that her illness surfaced when she got tests after returning from a three-week training camp in Australia.
She says, “I still can’t believe it, and I am in a state of confusion.”
Ikee expressed hopes for recovery but acknowledged she could not compete for a while.
“I will take some days off for now and focus on my treatment to do my utmost so that I can show you as soon as possible an even more powerful Rikako Ikee,” she said.
Winning all six of her gold medals in record times in the Indonesian capital propelled her onto the world stage and made her a major name in Japan.
Only North Korean shooter So Gin Man, who won seven golds and a silver at New Delhi in 1982, has won more titles at one Asian Games than Ikee.
Ikee’s gold medal haul was the most for a female athlete at a single Asian Games, and she also picked up two relay silvers to match So’s record tally of eight medals.
The diagnosis will deprive the world junior 50-metre freestyle, 50-metre butterfly and 100-metre butterfly champion of the chance to race at the senior world championships in Gwangju, South Korea later this year.