Olympics-Polish speed climber has dog for company in quest for glory

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Polish speed climber Aleksandra Miroslaw trains ahead of Tokyo 2020 Olympics
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(Reuters) - Aleksandra Miroslaw is feeling the weight of expectation as the only Polish climber to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics but her preparations have been near faultless thanks to her puppy.

Miroslaw, who won her two world titles in speed climbing, is not alone in her quest for an Olympic gold medal -- dog Loki makes sure her concentration levels never dip during training sessions, always keeping her on her toes.

"He is a little 'disruptor', he forces me to focus more on the training and learn how to switch off my mind from distractions," Miroslaw told Reuters.

"This may bring positive results during competitions. But generally, it is just fun."

Sport climbing will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo in a unique format where 20 male and 20 female athletes competing over three disciplines -- speed, lead and bouldering -- will be judged on their combined scores.

Miroslaw said she had hoped someone else would qualify from her country but was still excited to take the plane to Japan as "a one-person climbing team".

"I am very proud but at the same time I feel it is a huge responsibility because all the focus is on me, my start, my training," she added. "But I am very happy that I have succeeded and I am going for the Games.

"I always go for competitions with a smile on my face thinking I will show what I have done, what I have achieved. I truly love the stress, it doesn't paralyse me, it mobilises me and it is there that I feel like a fish in water."

The climbing events will take place at Tokyo's Aomi Urban Sports Park from Aug. 3-6.

(Reporting by Anna Dabrowska and Aleksandra Szmigiel; Writing by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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