Japanese teenage swimmer Rikako Ikee was named Sunday the most valuable player at the Asian Games after winning eight medals, including six gold, the most by any athlete at the games held in Indonesia.
The 18-year-old Tokyo Olympic medal hopeful received the accolade from the Olympic Council of Asia, with prize money of $ 50,000, on the final day of the competition.
Ikee won all of her individual events — the 50-meter and 100 freestyle as well as 50 and 100 butterfly — and was a member of the gold-winning teams in the 4×100 freestyle and medley relays.
She also took silvers competing in the team 4×200 freestyle and the mixed 4×100 medley relay.
The teenager became the fourth Japanese athlete to win the MVP and second in a row following swimmer Kosuke Hagino at the 2014 games in Incheon, South Korea. Swimmer Kosuke Kitajima won the award in 2002 at the Busan Games.
Ikee’s six-gold performance is a new national record, exceeding the five won by Yoshimi Nishigawa at both the 1970 and 1974 games.
Prior to the Asian Games, Ikee said she hoped to be named the games’ MVP and follow in the wake of Kitajima and Hagino who went on to become Olympic gold medalists two years after receiving their awards.
Kitajima won the 100 and 200 breaststroke at the 2004 Athens Olympics and Hagino won the 400 individual medley at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
Ikee recently drew attention for her national-record-breaking swims. In her Olympic debut in Rio in the 100 butterfly, her pet event, she placed fifth with a national record of 56.86 seconds.
She marked 56.08 at the Pan Pacific Championships on Aug. 11, the world’s fastest this season, quicker than the 56.23 Rio champion Sarah Sjostrom clocked to win the European Championships final on Aug. 4.
All — Kyodo News+