[Torika Tokalau-Chandra | Stuff]

“I was just a mother with two children and a programming job. And, I am a proof that anyone can do it when they put their mind to it.”

She’s a geek by day and a pole dancer by night.

Ryoko Ibaraki has been a computer programmer for 10 years, but she’s also considered one of the best pole dancers in the world.

Koko, as she is commonly known, moved to New Zealand in 2002 from Osaka, Japan and lives with her family in Auckland’s Western Springs.

She’s the defending female champion at the NZ Pole Legends competition. Earlier this month, Koko was first runner up in the Masters 40 category at the World Pole Sports Championship in Japan.

“I have no gymnastics background and I was never a sporty girl. I was just a mother with two children and a programming job. And, I am a proof that anyone can do it when they put their mind to it,” the 42-year-old says.

Koko was first introduced to pole dancing eight years ago at a cafe, while talking to two girls she had just met. Having never heard of pole dancing as a hobby, she was invited to attend the girls’ practice run.

“A few weeks later I went along and when I saw them pole dancing, I thought that it was an absolute beautiful form of art.”

She immediately took up pole dancing lessons at a studio in Queen Street called Swing360, which she now owns. While pole fitness can be challenging, Koko says the experience is rewarding, fun and a great way to feel good about yourself.

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