Pole dancing is a brutal, physically demanding sport, says The Spinoff, and 50-year-old Aucklander Koko Ibaraki is one of the best in the world. “Pole was my release of all the depressed feelings,” Koko says. “You can’t think about it – because otherwise you fall.” She received the Ultimate Legends Award at the Pole Legends NZ competition at the age of 42, and is now working towards the world championships in 2023. Although a source of much empowerment and fun, pole dancing remains a challenging feat of stamina, flexibility and an incredible amount of strength.