Japanese Sports Official Worries That Olympic Excitement Will Decrease Because Star Swimmer Was Diagnosed With Leukemia

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This week Japanese swimming star Rikako Ikee announced that she has been diagnosed with leukemia and is starting treatment for the cancer. Ikee, 18, won six gold medals at the 2018 Asians and was expected to contend for several medals at the 2020 Olympics, which are being hosted in Tokyo.

While most people would be concerned for her well-being and only that, Tokyo 2020 Olympics Minister Yoshitaka Sakurada expressed his concern that Ikee’s absence from the Games will dampen enthusiasm for the home Olympics.


According to Asahi, Sakurada said:

“On the 12th, according to an NHK report, Sakurada said about Rikako Ikee’s diagnosis ‘She’s an athlete that Japan has put high expectations on, so of course [the diagnosis] is disappointing. Of course, I hope for a speedy recovery. But I am worried that excitement will decrease.’”


Well, at least he also wished her a speedy recovery.

This comment did not go over well with other officials. Kiyomi Tsujimoto, a politician from Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said, “Of course you’d say that as Olympics [commissioner], but you can’t say that as a human being.”


Kazuhiro Haraguchi of the National Democratic Party, said, “I can’t overlook this heartless remark. It deserves a quick dismissal.”

All Japanese text was translated by Victoria Song.