TOKYO: Japan’s athlete of the moment Rikako Ikee continued her relentless pursuit of Asian Games history by topping the times in the 50 metres freestyle heats.
The 18-year-old breakout star won her heat in a time of 25.09 seconds as she chases a record sixth swimming gold on the final day of the pool competition in Jakarta.
Ikee, who is poised to become the face of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in her home city, is threatening to stamp her name all over the Asian Games .
She has already snaffled gold in the 50m fly, 100m fly, 100m free, 4x100m free and the 4x100m medley in an electrifying week.
“I just hate losing,” said Ikee, her wide grin concealing a steely determination.
“I’ll win through sheer willpower if I have to.”
China’s Liu Xiang, who set a world record in the 50m backstroke earlier this week, will look to dash Ikee’s ambitions after winning her heat in 25.14.
“The Chinese girl won’t want to lose the freestyle after setting a world record,” said Ikee.
“It will be a tough race. But I plan to really get my teeth into this one and just go for it.”
Competing for the limelight on the final evening, Chinese giant Sun Yang will be the odds-on favourite to add the 1,500m freestyle title to his haul after powering to gold in the 200, 400 and 800m.
China’s fiercely patriotic team captain will be hoping his talismanic presence can inspire his troops to finish top of the swimming medal table after Japan took a 17-16 lead in golds after day five.