Swimming: Rikako rocks

Swimming: Rikako rocks
FLYING FISH: Japan's Rikako Ikee splashing her way to the women's 50m butterfly gold.
PHOTO: The New Paper

On an evening when three world junior records fell at the OCBC Aquatic Centre, a pint-sized Japanese swimmer stood tall.

Rikako Ikee, 15, became the first Asian - since Chinese swimmers Zhou Yanxin and Wang Qun in 2006 - to win a 50m race in any discipline at the Fina World Junior Swimming Championships, grabbing gold last night in the women's 50m butterfly in a new championship record time of 26.28sec.

Rikako pipped Canada's Penny Oleksiak and Russia's Mariia Kameneva - both towered over her on the podium during the medal presentation ceremony - to claim gold, only 0.02sec off the world junior mark of 26.26, owned by Russia's Rozaliya Nasretdinova. Speaking through a translator later, Rikako said: "I don't think it was my best swim today, I have done better in training and I can do better in the future."

While she knows that her size would always leave her at a disadvantage, the fearless teenager, who is below 1.70m in height, said: "I swim the same way whether I am in Japan, or at the World Championships in Kazan earlier this year, or here.

"I will just keep on building myself up to be more powerful."

Australia's Minna Atherton had another good night in the pool.


The 15-year-old qualified for the women's 50m backstroke final in style, lowering the world junior record in both the heats and the semi-final.

Minna recorded 28.00sec in the heats to erase the old mark of 28.14, and then clocked 27.92 in the semi-finals.

She said: "I was just trying to go as fast as I could (in the semi-finals). I might possibly be able to (swim faster in the final). I think my dive could have been better. I was a bit too deep off the wall."

Turkey's Viktoria Zeynep Gunes went into the record books as well, setting a new world junior mark of 2min 11.03sec en route to winning the women's 200m individual medley.

This, after winning the women's 100m breaststroke earlier last night.

The United States ended the night with a bang when their men's 4x200m freestyle relay team of Grant Shoults, Maxime Rooney, Sean Grieshop and Grant House romped home in a new world junior mark of 7:13.76, bettering the old mark of 7:15.36.


With yesterday's results, Australia still lead the medal tally with seven golds and five silvers, with the US in second place with five golds, seven silvers and three bronzes.

But the manner of the Americans' victory in the relay has given House the confidence that the Aussies can be overtaken by the end of the meet tomorrow.

House said: "We are definitely confident. We have the ability and it is up to us to make it happen.

"We will be right there battling with them stroke for stroke."

I don't think it was my best swim today, I have done better in training and I can do better in the future. - Rikako Ikee, after winning the women's 50m butterfly gold in a new championship record time of 26.28sec


This article was first published on August 29, 2015.
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