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Pole dancers aim for Olympics

Ashley Hall reported this story on Friday, February 26, 2010 12:54:00

SHANE MCLEOD: As the Winter Olympics unfold in Vancouver, sport fans have been treated to a parade
of unfamiliar and unusual sports.

Sports like curling, the luge and 'Nordic combined' attract a lot of attention, although they
baffle even the most committed armchair fanatic.

So, it's perhaps not surprising that some rising sports are hoping to join the ranks of Olympic
competition.

The latest sport to put up its hand is pole dancing. Competitors say they train just as hard as
other elite athletes.

But not everyone is convinced that something more often associated with strip clubs belongs in an
Olympic arena.

Ashley Hall reports.

(Sound of music)

ASHLEY HALL: Is it sport? Is it art? Or is it something else entirely?

It's a question that rhythmic gymnastics and synchronised swimmers have had to answer as they
sought Olympic recognition. And now, it seems pole dancers are facing it too.

With its origins in strip clubs and cheap bars, the so-called sport is in a quest for
respectability.

ANIA PRZEPLASKO: Three years ago nobody would believe there would be pole dancing in fitness
centres and we already put a lot of fitness centre around the world.

Ania Przeplasko is the Hong Kong based founder of the International Pole Dancing Fitness
Association, or IPDFA.

ANIA PRZEPLASKO: Two years ago I hear there would be no good competition and one would not be hold
in nightclubs and we did already the first competition. And one year ago I hear from a lot of
people there would be no men division.

And in 2009 December Tokyo show already as well men division in pole dancing.

ASHLEY HALL: By all accounts pole dancing is a physically demanding activity providing both an
aerobic and anaerobic work out. Blisters and bruises are the norm.

And formal schools are big business and instructors must have qualifications.

ANIA PRZEPLASKO: I think the Olympic community need to acknowledge the amount of people who
exercise with pole dancing right now.

(sound of competition)

ASHLEY HALL: With a show of significant strength, flexibility and endurance, the Australian Dave
Kahl won the men's division of the World Pole Dancing Championships last December.

Japan's Mai Sato won the women's division. She says pole dancing is much more challenging than many
people believe.

MAI SATO (translated): As a discipline you have to show tricks, and also you have to show
expression through dance. In a fixed amount of time you have to ensure that we show a good balance
between both aspects. In that sense it is very similar to some of the Olympic events that we always
see.

ASHLEY HALL: But not all pole dancers want to be a part of the Olympic family.

Jamilla Deville is a former Australian pole dance champion, and the current IPDFA instructor of the
year.

JAMILLA DEVILLE: Where I come is I'm a dancer and I'm trained in that way and I've always
approached pole dancing as a form of expression and as a dance. There are a lot of dance forms
around the world that don't make it to the Olympics and that's totally fine. To me the Olympics is
much more of a sporting event.

ASHLEY HALL: And yet you compete you are a champion, a past champion, so there is a competitive
edge to this.

JAMILLA DEVILLE: Yes that's true.

ASHLEY HALL: So why does it fall short of an Olympic competition then?

JAMILLA DEVILLE: I think that, were pole dancing to be part of the Olympics the format of what it
is would change. Competitions are great because they push people to further themselves and to do
things that they maybe wouldn't normally push themselves to do.

So we get to see beautiful things come out of that but too much competition in an industry tends to
squash the more freely expressive elements of it.

ASHLEY HALL: Jamilla Deville also fears Olympic inclusion would refocus the sport on amateurs, at
the exclusion of professionals.

She says the push for top level recognition is largely about legitimising the sport.

JAMILLA DEVILLE: I'm not sure if it's necessary I think that we're an incredibly successful
industry and a lot of people understand that what we do, it's a fitness dance situation and it's
not for women who are just looking for a job in exotic dance industry.

ASHLEY HALL: It's unclear what the chances are of pole dancers winning their way to the Olympics,
or how long the campaign may need to run.

The Australia Olympic Committee has so far not responded to The World Today's request for a
comment.

It may be an uphill battle. More established sports including squash and cricket have failed to
make the Olympic cut, while baseball and softball were recently axed.

SHANE MCLEOD: Ashley Hall reporting.