The International Pole Sports Federation (IPSF) hosted the world pole sports championships in London, England July 19 – 20 and with more than 100 competitors from countries across the world the pressure was on for participants. Two local athletes Jenny Phillips and Joel Kolenchuk took on the challenge of the world championships for the first time.
It was a year-long process to get to the world championships, with the duo first competing at provincials in Vancouver, followed by nationals in Mississauga, Ont with only the top two contenders at each event moving forward.
“We’ve been training together for about five years,” owner and operator of Vile Pole Art Phillips said.
“When we found out we were eligible we had about 10 or 11 months to train.”
After arriving in London for the event the pair had only one day for rehearsals.
They were competing against 30 other doubles teams getting just one shot to make it through preliminaries, with only the top 10 teams moving onto finals.
“We had five minutes on stage,” Kolenchuk said.
“They ran your music and you either did it or didn’t, then they moved onto the next person.”
In a primarily female-female dominated category Quesnel’s doubles team entered the event at a slight disadvantage.
For the choreography performance, each doubles team had to complete 10 compulsory movements.
But since the male female teams are newer in Pole Sport both Phillips and Kolenchuk agreed that many of the moves are difficult for people of different body sizes.
“There is a pretty big list to choose from and most of them are difficult if you are not sort of the same size,” said Phillips.
“They also have what they call balance moves were you have to make each others body weight balance, which is pretty much not possible with us.”
It was a tribute to months of dedication and years of practice that helped push these two athletes ahead of the competition.
“Our goal at first was just to get into the top 10 and be good enough that we get through preliminaries so we actually feel like we got to do the main competition,” Kolenchuk said.
“There are so many people who go and don’t even get top 10 and just have to go home.”
The duo made it through preliminaries and would enter the finals in eighth place.
The competition was close with only one or two points separating all the way from first to 10th place.
There was the pressure of perfection on every participant, even the most fantastic runs could fall out of the top ten if they had just one mistake, Kolenchuk remarked.
Starting off in eighth place, the Quesnel duo surpassed the competition, jumping up to a fifth place win in the final competition.
The event was unlike anything the team had experienced.
“It was a lot of stress,” Kolenchuk said.
“We’ve never done a competition where they were running it so strictly. They sent us this PDF file telling you all the compulsory movements, which points are worth what, all the do’s and don’t’s of costumes and choreography.”
Even before the competition began Quesnel’s doubles team was gaining international recognition amount the world Pole Sports circuit.
When first meeting the Japanese team Phillips and Kolenchuk were given a pleasant surprise.
“They walked over and opened up a picture on their phone that they had pulled off the Internet and asked if this was us,” Kolenchuk said. “
It was a picture of us from one of the competitions in Mississauga.”
The duo was flattered to learn that the Japanese team had been studying their videos to prepare for the world championships.
Aside from competitions across Canada, the team has been invited to compete in Australia as well judging a competition in Prince George this November.
Throughout the year they donate performances and classes at Vile Pole Arts to different charities as well as performance such as ArtsWells and the Quesnel Night Market.
Although Pole Sports is now an accredited sport, there is still a push to leave previous conceptions about the sport behind.
At sanctioned events for this sport, any provocative movements can get the participant disqualified.
The duo is excited to see the growing acceptance of sport, with Pole Sports recently being included in the World Games, falling in the same category as Parkour and Ultimate Frisbee.