Pole Dancers Are (Olympic?) Athletes, Too

Here's one to wrap your legs around: Beach volleyball may no longer be the hottest summer Olympic sport to tune into in 2012 if a critical mass of pole dancers manages to convince the Olympic Committee that the athleticism in the activity is gold-medal competition-worthy, (once you get past the stiletto heels).

We know: Pole fitness dancers are not stripping, they're exercising. And even though pole dancing is now regularly indulged in by cookie-baking, church-going moms around the country and is remarkably acrobatic and difficult to do (disclaimer: I took a class for "research" once for this OCW story and it was a hell of a workout), will the Olympic Committee go for it?

The woman leading the charge--more than 100,000 people, (not all men), have already signed on to a two-month old Facebook petition supporting Olympic inclusion--is OC pole fitness guru Collette Kakuk, a super-toned (thanks to that pole), mother of two with an MBA who dropped her boring business consulting career a few years ago for a pair of stilettos and roomful of poles. The founder of OC Pole Fitness in south county was just beginning to tap into the local "fitness" (and, let's be honest: what's-it-like-to-dance-like-a-hot-buff-stripper) craze when I first met her in 2007.

Today, business is swelling for Kakuk, who recently founded the "Pole Fitness Association" with a dozen other professionally-minded pole dance/fitness instructors around the country (and in the UK and Canada). They're now the ones pushing for the Olympics deal and Kakuk is working to "define industry standards for our sport and validate our sport for Olympic recognition," she says. You've got to start somewhere. After all, if the Olympic Committee will recognize "Korfball" and "Tug of War" as official sports, surely there's a home for the infinitely more-interesting-to-watch (and probably judge) pole dancing "sport" somewhere? There are a few foreseeable hurdles that Kakuk and supporters will have to overcome before they can convince the Committee. For starters, how to deal with the hot factor?



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How do these athletes plan to get around the platform stiletto pump action (required gear for pole fitness), without getting the judges all hot and bothered? And what about the teeny booty shorts (another indispensable part of the uniform)? Do the pole dancers ditch the shorts in favor of the ubiquitous, God-awful, boob-plastering gymnastics leotard? And then there's the moves themselves: difficult, yes. But kind of hot. Maybe the Committee will see past that. The judges always seem a tad bit on the sleepy side anyway (not much looky-looing going on during volleyball, diving, gymnastics, etc.).

For now, Kakuk and the Association are officially pushing for the inclusion of pole fitness as a demonstration or test sport in the 2012 Olympics in London. She's worked tirelessly to promote pole fitness as an acrobatic, athletic sensual sport that boosts self esteem (again a disclaimer: I did kind of feel like a bad ass when I managed to climb up then down the pole in Kakuk's class).

In her push to assimilate pole fitness into the world of other sports, she points out in her petition: "Like the horizontal bar, the vertical bar (pole) should have a place in international competitive sport." Makes sense: a trick on a bar is a trick on a bar. And: "Pole Dance/Pole Fitness is acrobatic, technical and takes disciplined physical skill and strength to master." Absolutely. Just check out the abs, thighs and arms on this year's winner of the first annual U.S. Pole Dance Federation Pole Dance Championship held a week ago in New York.  

We'll keep an eye out and our fingers crossed. Come 2012, there might be a corner somewhere in the big, glaringly bright gymnastics stadium, past the chalk and the floor show girls with ribbons in their hair, where a new legion of international athletes will be climbing onto their vertical bar in dangerously short shorts and stilettos. 


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