Ola Kalucka remembers sitting at breakfast with her twin sister, Natalia, on the morning of the final Olympic qualification round for speed climbing in June. Both had enough points to make the Polish team, but only one could.

"It was hard because I knew that I needed to fight my sister," she recalled. "We were crying, because we were highly aware that it was going to be a bittersweet evening for us."

Although world champion Natalia was five points in front on the morning of the finals in Budapest, Ola finished in the lead and secured the Olympic spot.

Aleksandra Miroslaw, who finished fourth in Tokyo, had grabbed the first Olympic ticket for the Polish speed climbing team when she won the first qualifying event in Rome last September.

Since then, the 22-year-old Kalucka sisters had been battling it out to see which of them, if either, would claim the second spot.

They are used to such familial battles, having each won a speed World Cup and Natalia taking the title from her sister last year.

In Budapest, Natalia finished fifth, but there were no Polish tickets to Paris left.

"It's kind of brutal, but I think that sport is brutal sometimes," Ola told Reuters.

Ola blames herself in part for losing out to Miroslaw in the final round in Rome and not securing the first Olympic spot, which would have left room for her sister to go for the second.

"I was winning, but in the upper part of the wall I made a mistake, and I don't want to predict what could have happened if I hadn't," she recalled. "It was hard. After that competition I did blame myself for not being able to win the ticket for our family, [but] I think thinking so negatively does not help you at all."

Ola, whose full first name is also Aleksandra, was keen to emphasize that Miroslaw, who broke her own world record with a time of 6.24 seconds in the Rome qualifier, fully deserved her spot in Paris.

Childhood dream

Sport climbing first featured at the Tokyo Olympics, but this is the first time the sport will be split into separate events, one for bouldering together with lead, and one for speed, in which athletes race up a 15-meter wall.

"I have been fighting for this for two years," Ola said, reflecting on her own journey to the Games, which included recovering from a fractured leg last year. "I had two chances to win a ticket last year, but I didn't because I didn't stay in the present. This time, I did my best to just focus on the holds and the runs."

She was overcome with emotion after hitting the buzzer to win the Budapest final and covered her face with her hands as she dangled off the wall on the safety harness.

"I felt like my childhood dream came true," Ola said. "It was a rollercoaster moment, I felt so many emotions. I was so excited and so happy, but at the same time I was so sad."

Even though she will not be competing, Natalia will be in Paris to support her twin, and Ola is still hoping for a day when they can both race on the sport's biggest stage, perhaps in Los Angeles in 2028.

"We do everything together, so my sister is definitely going to Paris with me," Ola said. "Maybe one day I'll compete with my sister in the big final. We'll see. That's my dream."