'It's for Power Men': Photos of Male Pole Dancing Champions
This weekend, the world's finest athletes were in London to compete in the World Pole Sport Championships. Broadly went backstage to meet the men who are going for gold.
All photos by Alice Zoo
As a society, we're increasingly chill about men in spandex and tights, and rightly so—buff men look hot in spandex and tights. Lycra-clad ass lovers will have found ample to admire as Broadly attended the fifth annual World Pole Sport Championships, held at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre, in London.
A sport in its infancy, pole has come a huge way from the neon-lit strip bars and polyester G-strings of popular renown. Requiring enormous technical skill and physical strength, male pole sports professionals are gods among men. Watching them perform moves including the Chinese flag, the alarming-sounding Death K, or my personal favourite, the Frodo, will quell any doubts about pole being a sport for the girls.
Despite this, pole isn't widely known outside the community, and lacks the international profile or funding given to other sports. While the International Pole Sports Federation is pushing for greater recognition and to have the sport admitted to the Olympic Games, for now male pole athletes compete for love and glory, and not lucrative sponsorship deals.
To find out what it's like to be a male pole dancer in a sport widely considered to be the preserve of strippers alone, we caught up with the elite male pole athletes of this world as they competed in the championship final.
Felipe Mendoza, 30, Chile
When did you start pole sports?
I started pole sports three years ago. I began with pole dancing 5 years ago, but I've been doing pole sports professionally for three.
How do you feel on the pole?
When I'm up on the pole?
[Sighs] It's difficult to describe! I feel like I'm in another place entirely. I'm transported to another feeling, another world.
What is it like being a man in the sport?
A while ago people found it very strange, but now it's seen as completely normal because it's so much more common to see men taking part in the sport.
Hennadii Sierokurov, 35, Ukraine
What is it like being a man in pole sports?
It's like a workout with dance. It's power, and dance. And the dance is so powerful—it's not like ballet or contemporary dance. It's for power men.
Are you in a relationship?
I have a wife and a little girl. I met my wife when she came to the pole dancing lessons I teach. We went for coffee one, two, many times, and after that we lived together!
Chris Fernandez, 33, Spain
What's it like being a man in a sport conventionally associated with women?
It's changing really fast. In the beginning there was more of that concept that it was something exotic, for women. Now it's sporty, it's fun, it's aerodynamic.
Do you hope to compete in the Olympics one day?
I believe one day this will be an Olympic sport. I think it will take a while, but I imagine myself taking part in the Olympic games.
How do you feel on the pole?
You feel great when everything is going according to plan. You also feel free, because if you're strong enough you can do all the pole tricks you want. It's liberating.
Chris Saez, 26, Chile
How did you get into pole?
It was a coincidence; a friend of mine was practising it. She invited me to try it because I did calisthenics when I was younger so it was kind of similar, you know. I decided I liked it, bought my own pole and after that I started my career.
Tell me about your hardest move.
I really love the acrobatic movements, I love spins and flips and to be dynamic. It's harder for me to do the moves that require flexibility, because when you're as muscular as I am your body is tight.
What do your family and friends think about you doing pole?
They're mixed. They were paying for college, you know. But when they realized I really liked this, they were supportive. I'm actually the champion for the whole of South America, and I've won a lot of championships in my continent. So my family is happy, they're always supporting me.
Are you sad that you won't be competing at the Olympics this summer? Would you like for pole to be an Olympic sport?
I think it would be a big push for pole to enter the Olympics because so many people don't know about pole, or they're prejudiced about it. But when they actually watch it, whether on YouTube or live, they're amazed by it. So we need more publicity.