SINGAPORE - At 63 years old, Mrs Greta Pontarelli is the world's oldest competitive pole dancer.
The former gymnast and martial artist took up pole dancing in 2010, when her doctor told her she needed to strengthen her bones to ward off osteoporosis, which runs in her family. To do so, she could either lift weights or her own body.
The Californian signed up for pole dancing classes after watching related videos on YouTube. Although she could not even climb the pole in her first class, she immediately fell in love with it.
"I loved the artistry, the creativity and the fun of it," she recalls.
"When you're spinning on the pole, it feels like you are a kid spinning around or rolling down a hill. It gets the endorphins flowing and it feels euphoric. It makes you feel bigger than yourself," says the mother of two grown sons, whose retired hospital administrator husband fully supports her passion.
"There's a body-mind integration that comes with it."
Mrs Pontarelli was competing in the International Pole Championship's masters division, for dancers aged 50 years and above, where she went against two other dancers. For the record, the youngest competitor in the championship was Derick Pierson, 23, from the United States.
The sexagenarian practises about 11/2 to two hours a day, five days a week. Last year, she started entering in - and winning - pole competitions.
Her biggest challenge during training was developing strength and flexibility.
"Mentally, I was there. I always believed I could do it. But some things just seemed really hard and moves took longer for me to master," she says.
"I just had to keep working on it, while at the same time respecting and listening to my body and finding out what works for me. That's what's so beautiful about pole dancing. You can do it at any age and I'm so grateful for that."
She plans to continue pole dancing into her 80s.
"As you get older, your body just does not have the same flexibility and strength, but I really do believe that you can't let age limit your dreams," she says.
"If I don't get injured, I think I will keep going."
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.