All eyes will be on PyeongChang next month, as athletes go for gold in 15 different Olympic events.
Those 15 events aren’t static, however. The International Olympic Committee has made changes over the years, and is always considering adding new sports.
Back in October, the Global Association of International Sports Federation granted “observer status” to Pole sports, more commonly known as pole dancing. That represents the first step on a long road toward becoming an Olympic event.
Save your laughter. Pole dancing is serious business right here in the Valley.
“I’m not the kind of person that would go to a gym to work out in any way,” said Michigan native Lindsay Green. “I’m not an athletic person. I failed gym in high school. This is the only thing that speaks to me and makes me feel strong. I feel like I’m flying and free when I do it.”
Fifteen years ago, Green was flying around her living room, falling onto couch cushions strewn across her floor.
“I had a friend that was doing it on some crazy shower curtain pole in her living room,” said Green.
Now she is the proud owner of Prowess Pole Fitness in Tempe and a Pole Sports pioneer. Her personal progress parallels the growth of her sport.
Also on the front lines of this movement: Bad Kitty, an apparel company based in Phoenix. Seven years ago, co-founders Jack Gaffney and Trisha Stone sponsored the first-ever pole fitness competition in the United States.
“When we went, what our expectation was and then what it actually was kind of blew our mind. We kind of stood back, like we what is this? We haven’t seen anything like this before,” said Gaffney.
“It’s very much been an underground movement,” Stone said. “Just like anything that’s a lifestyle brand: skateboarding, snowboarding. It was always underground and grunge, and only those that knew knew about it.”
These days, the “kitty” is out of the bag. Pole sports, as well as pole fitness, have exploded in popularity.
“Bad Kitty services a new breed of modern women,” said Stone. “One that is powerful and strong and empowered. Pole fitness does that. It allows women to break out of this box that society has put them in.”
“You’re becoming empowered, and I think today with what’s going on in the world, we need more empowered women and I’m stoked to be on the forefront of it.”
Stone explains that pole dancing is one of the first sports that is created by women. “Pole fitness is definitely an industry built by women around women. It’s one of the first sports that wasn’t adapted from men. We didn’t take baseball, we didn’t take football. We created it.”
Pole sports are still a long way from being recognized by the IOC. Stone thinks it’ll take a decade or longer. However, its pioneers still see gold on the horizon.
“To see it go from 10 years ago at this really small event to ‘wow, there’s an Olympic champion pole sports athlete’… that would be something else,” said Gaffney.
“I think that the Olympics will build credibility and allow us to grow in ways we can’t as a small industry and give us a big push,” she said.
“For me, to see something like this going to the Olympics or even being recognized as a sport, it kind of validates my entire life,” said Green. “It would be a wonderful thing to see.”