A pole-dancing pensioner is giving women half her age a run for their money with gravity-defying stunts.
Greta Pontarelli, from San Diego, California, took up the scintillating sport aged 59 in a bid to stave off osteoporosis, a bone-weakening condition which runs in her family.
The 67-year-old, who has pole-danced all over the world and won a string of prestigious titles, said: ‘I want people to realise that age shouldn’t stop you following your dreams.
‘I always hear, “I’m too old, too heavy, too this, too that,” which I understand, because I’ve been there, too. But those are all just excuses.’
Despite competing as a gymnast when she was younger, Greta did not consider pole dancing until eight years ago when she was scouring the web for exercises to help strengthen her bones.
After stumbling across a YouTube video, she was hooked on the idea of taking up the sport and a few weeks later she signed up for a free session at a local studio.
Recalling her first class, she said: ‘It was difficult. I know I have that gymnastic background, but I hadn’t done it in years, and it’s not like riding a bike, where you can just pick up where you left off.
‘I think the teacher assumed I wouldn’t be back, but there was something about it that had me hooked.’
After that, Greta attended classes regularly, slowly building up her strength.
She added: ‘I’d celebrate those little victories to help motivate me.’
Aged 62, Greta took part in her first ever contest, taking to the stage in Los Angeles, to compete against dancers as young as 18.
She recalled: ‘People kept coming over to me like I was some sort of anomaly, and I realized there was nobody else in my age group doing this.’
Shortly afterward, Greta took part in the North American Dance Championships and came second, missing out on the top spot my one-and-a-half thousandth of the point.
Since then, she has traveled all over the world competing, claiming five world champion titles, her first at a show in London.
And while the pensioner admits it is important to ‘listen to her body,’ she can still contort herself into some incredible shapes.
‘I can’t do everything I used to – at my age, you lose muscle memory fast – but I mainly do strength moves. That’s my signature,’ she explained.
‘I can do deadlifts, the splits, a flagpole, where you hold your body out at a 90-degree angle from the pole, and a cartwheel that lands in the splits.
‘When I perform, though, it’s more about the artistry and the story-telling. I leave a piece of my heart behind on that stage.’
Now, Greta fine-tunes her routines – and continues to sculpt her enviable abs – by training every other day.
She films each session so she can watch it back in order to ensure she’s performing to the best of her abilities.
‘People do make a fuss of me because looking at me makes younger dancers realize that they have longevity, and can be competing for years to come,’ she said.
‘I, too, get inspired by people older than me doing yoga or running marathons.
‘Now, in the pole-community, that glass ceiling has been broken. It’s no longer just the younger people winning championships.
‘The limits of what people can achieve are being pushed all the time.’
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