The recognisition came as Rikako gained an unprecedented six gold medals in the Jakarta pool.
All six golds were achieved in Games record times and her achievement was made all the more remarkable as she arrived in Jakarta immediately after the Pan Pacific championships, where she won a gold, two silvers and a bronze.
Ikee, whose gold medal haul is the most for a female athlete at a single Games, was the unanimous choice for the most valuable player award, the Olympic Council of Asia said on the final day of the multi-sport event on Sunday.
“I had heard that for a while there was no MVP award and I felt very sad about that, but there was a re-evaluation and I am very honoured to be able to receive such a wonderful award,” Ikee said after picking up her trophy and a cheque for $50,000. Actually after the swimming competitions, I went back to Japan. I didn’t think I had to come back to Indonesia again. This has been a place with lot of good memories.”
Ikee became the fourth Japanese athlete to win the award since its inception at the 1998 Bangkok Games and can now be expected to shoulder a huge burden of expectations when Tokyo hosts the Olympics in two years’ time. It should be noted that North Korean shooter So Gin-man, who won seven golds and a silver at New Delhi in 1982, has won more titles at one Asian Games but the 18-year-old Ikee also picked up two relay silvers to match his record tally of eight medals.