You may not have heard of her, but I dare you to find a more impressive athlete at this age in any field! Ladies and gentlemen, meet the 2013 World Pole Sport Champion in the Masters 50+ division, Greta Pontarelli.
It’s no surprise my autospell keeps writing her name as “great!” Greta would epitomize greatness at any age. But this devoted athlete is wait for it…62-years-old! I know, right? Check out these photos and email them to all your friends who need inspiration to exercise.
In case you don’t know, in the past eight years, the sport of pole dancing has quickly skyrocketed way beyond its “stripper pole” reputation and become a female-driven fitness phenomenon with a huge fan-base of support. What competitor-performers do now in the upper echelons of pole both takes (and builds) a type of strength that makes even and bodybuilders cringe.
Cirque de Soleil has invited pole luminaries, Felix Cane and Jenyne Butterfly to create their own routines in a few different shows. Many others in the sport have petitioned the Olympic Committee to include it in future games.
Pole, that simple metal ballet barre stood on its head, has earned its reputation as one of the most transformationally fun fitness activities around and its popularity continues to grow around the world.
Greta Pontarelli wasn’t thinking about all that when she first got on a pole. At age 59 (three short years ago) she was looking for a way to build strength and prevent osteoporosis. Like many first time polers, she couldn’t get up the pole. But unlike many of those first timers (frustration, weakness, fear and bruises often feed the attrition rate), she came back again and again, much to her teacher’s surprise!
But even though she lacked the strength, Greta’s experience as a dancer, gymnastic and martial arts champion, gave her the persistence, grit and grace to carry her though the initial stages. Now, as she says, “the rest is history.” She has several titles under her belt, including this, her first International Title and is going for another in Singapore at the end of 2013.
So how does she pull of those aerial passé planks, handstands and press straddles with the strength and flexibility of someone one-third her age? It all starts with the belief that she can! In three short years, with 10 hours a week training on the pole, plus one ballet class, massage, a healthy, organic way of eating, one day off a week, the ability to balance marriage, motherhood to two grown boys, an International Life Coaching Business based in Temecula, Calif. plus a glass of very special reserve cabarnet once in a while, she has become a champion with the ability to “connect with my inner passion so that what appears to be hard work is really play!”
A pole routine is a storytelling blend of artistry, athleticism, musicality, and emotion. It’s all performed in a small costume (because you need bare skin to grip the pole) and either barefoot or in stilettos (because legs look great in those shoes and the vinyl on them also sticks the pole).
A judge looks for difficulty, originality, transitions, musicality, floor work, and a signature X factor or magical quality, which you can’t name until you see it. Although Greta consults with other pole champions to polish her routine, she creates the entire look and feel of it herself, videotaping her lines and angles so she can more fully engage the audience with what she’s feeling inside.
Greta admits that while older athletes rarely possess the strength and flexibility of the younger ones, (not so apparent in her case), experience and wisdom enrich her performances, allowing “the veil of one’s soul to be lifted.”
Watching Greta, it’s clear that her artistry is fed by “expressing the challenges and victories achieved in life,” the sum total of which is pure joy!
In the elite world of pole competition, Greta Pontarelli has become the crown jewel. She certainly possesses the grace of a reigning queen and her philosophy works for athletes of any age:
“Discover what works for you and keep refining it. Take each trick that you learn and embellish it with a fresh approach that is somehow uniquely you. Never give up and allow your gifts and artistry to manifest. Surround yourself with positive, motivated people. Remember that the only competition is with yourself and don’t let limitations stand in the way of your dreams!!”