[Jay Caboz | Business Insider South Africa]

12 years ago, Julie Fowler wanted to lose weight. Then she found pole dancing.

Between the sport, which combines dance and acrobatics, and a healthier lifestyle, she shed 10 kilograms.

In 2018, the 36-year old was crowned SA’s pole sports champion.

“My first international competition was 2013,” she said. “The industry was so small then.”

“My first international competition was 2013. The industry was so small then.”

— Julie Fowler

In July she will travel to Spain to compete in the World Pole Sports Championship.

There she will compete with 41 athletes in the pole-sports division, the top among some 5,000 registered athletes from around the world.

Pole dancing is more complex than you may think. Competitors are judged on skill, technique and execution, much like synchronised swimming or rhythmic gymnastics.

Some of the more complex manoeuvres are the Russian Splits, a 180 degree split parallel to the floor, inverted.

“One needs to be flexible to achieve the split angle and strong enough to hold it in that position to be scored,” says Fowler.