Olympics Minister Yoshitaka Sakurada, however, appeared to be more concerned about Japan’s medals than Ikee’s condition, according to a report from Agence France-Presse. “She is a potential gold medallist, an athlete in whom we have great expectations. I’m really disappointed,” the 69-year-old was quoted by the local media as saying. “When one person leads, she can boost the whole team. I am slightly worried that this type of excitement could wane.”
After drawing flack from the public and opposition politicians for his statement, Sakurada then clarified his stance and admitted his comments “lacked consideration.” Sakurada similarly made headlines last year after admitting that he had never used computers despite also serving as deputy chief of Japan’s cybersecurity strategy. In 2016, Sakurada also sparked controversy for his comments describing the “comfort women” forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels as “professional prostitutes.”
Ikee, who became an instant star after capturing a record six gold medals at last year’s Asian Games, was expected to bring in gold in several swimming events next year. While her condition has forced her to abandon her training camp on Australia’s Gold Coast, Ikee said she is determined to fight her illness. “If treated properly it’s a disease that can be beaten,” said Ikee. “I will devote myself to my treatment and strive to be able to show an even stronger Rikako Ikee.”
Ikee also confirmed that she will withdraw from the Japanese championships in April.
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