A former competitive gymnast, you are the world’s most decorated pole athlete. How did you get into the sport?
In 2008 I was in NY and saw a magazine article about pole dancing being a cool new form of exercise, and I just dropped by the studio in SoHo to try it out. I immediately felt that I was in my element, hanging on the pole, and went back many times during my stay. When I came back to Finland, it took a while to find a place to practice pole dancing in an athletic way. Back then you’d find a pole mainly in strip clubs, but today it’s a well established sport. That’s what so cool about pole dance; you have different genres on the pole, both the exotic old school as well as modern sports style.
What makes this sport so great?
It has to be the sensational feeling of flying, being in the air. The hard part is to make the movements look effortless and light while hanging on the pole. It’s a really heavy workout, as one pole performance is four minutes. But I like challenges and to challenge myself.
Are there any downsides of the sport?
I often have sore muscles, but mainly if I haven’t done enough other sports to balance the pole training.
How does a world champion train?
I train one to three times a day, about an hour or an hour and a half at a time. In addition to the actual pole training, I do yoga, meditation, winter swimming, ballet, strength training, TFW Training for Warriors and some traditional gymnastics. My sport requires a lot of strength, and as an athlete you really need to be versatile.
How did you become the best in the world?
I understood the big picture, what is required to become good, and I started practicing all elements early on. In general, your body needs to be strong, it’s not enough have just good core, or arms or legs. You also need to be flexible. I still think that my biggest asset is musical talent, I can pick the highlights from the music and bring them out on stage. The performance needs to be not only technically great, but also an experience for the audience.
How would you describe yourself as an athlete?
I am strong and relaxed – in strong movement you still need to be relaxed. I can step out of myself in a physical way. I am aware that I can sculpt my body to whatever I want. In pole dancing people follow their own paths, look different and feel good about themselves. There are no coaches to judge, pressure or destroy, which is unfortunately the case in many other competitive sports. Most of us who compete on the top have a background in other sports.
Have you ever regretted getting on this path in life?
What did you never settle for in life?
Giving up my freedom. I have made myself a life where I do what I love. I only work as much I have to, to pay my bills and my staff. Other times I simple focus on enjoying my life. A performance is a creative process and you can’t force creativity.
To be creative you need to be bored at times.
What or who is your inspiration?
Things you still want achieve?
Everything, this is only the beginning!
The 2019 Pole dance World Championships will take place in Hämeenlinna, Finland in November.
OONA KIVELÄ BIOGRAPHY
Oona Kivelä was born 1983 in Helsinki, Finland. She has won the World Pole Championships in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015 as well as the Pole Art Championships in 2009, 2011, 2012. Kivelä has won silver medals in the same competition in 2010 and 2013. In addition to her competitive career, Kivelä is a much sought-after instructor and lecturer, leading pole art workshops all over the world. In 2009, she received a degree in physical education from the Vierumäki Sports Institute in Finland. She has also founded Finnish kid’s gym chain Gymi.
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