By Sam Nussey and Rozanna Latiff
TOKYO (Reuters) – Poland’s Aleksandra Miroslaw took an early lead in the women’s Olympic climbing qualifiers in Tokyo on Wednesday with a 6.97 second run in the opening speed event, coming within a hair’s breadth of the world record as the sport makes its Games debut.
In the speed contest, a vertical sprint up a 15-metre wall, Iuliia Kaplina of the Russian Olympic Committee, who holds the world record of 6.96 seconds, was in fifth place with a time of 7.65 seconds. She left the stage in tears after falling at the last moment of her second run.
Speed is the first of three disciplines in the climbing equivalent of the triathlon, with rankings combined to determine the top eight performers who will go through to Friday’s final.
The format leaves plenty of opportunity for rankings to change with bouldering and lead events to follow later on Wednesday.
Medal favourite Janja Garnbret of Slovenia, an accomplished technical climber, struggled to a 14th place finish in the opening event.
Japan’s Miho Nonaka, another medal contender, demonstrated the fruits of her training in speed, placing fourth with a time of 7.55 seconds.
The start of women’s competition follows a day of breakthrough and reversal for France’s two Mawem brothers in the men’s event: the pair secured places the final before the elder brother, Bassa, was forced to drop out due to injury.
(Reporting by Sam Nussey; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)