Recap of PCS #PoleattheArnold 2017!
For now the third year in a row, I went back to visit – and compete in – the Arnold Sports Festival (or just “the Arnold”) (see last year’s coverage here ). The U.S. event (there are now several international events), located in Columbus, Ohio, is named after Arnold Schwarzenegger (who does actually show up!) and completely takes over the entire city for a weekend full of sporting events ranging from cheerleading to power lifting and ping pong competitions to, for the fourth year running, the Pole Championship Series (PCS). The PCS is a professional pole competition that brings together elite competitors from PCS qualifying events all over the world as well. It also includes, for the third year in a row, the PCS Pole Open for amateur and novice men and women from the U.S., Mexico and Canada.
The professional competition was held Friday night, right after the women’s figure and fitness competition. The show i hosted by Torwa Joe of Vertical Joes and Clint Hufft, a 20-year veteran announcer for the Arnold.
With only 2minutes and 30 seconds to wow the judges, 13 amazing women from all over the world (including Thailand and El Salvador!) attacked the stage showcasing diverse styles, musical choices and costuming. Jazzy Alix came back from her 2015 PCS win to take first place again, Anna Alvarez winner of the Minnesota Star Pole Championship took second and Brandi Renee winner of the inaugural Georgia Pole Fitness Classic placed third.
Saturday and Sunday were full days at the Pole Open, which continues to expand every year. Saturday saw two age-delineated women’s divisions (over and under 40 years old) in finals and the men’s all-ages finals take place. The competition was open to the public and took place in the large, newly renovated ballroom at the edge of the just expanded Convention center. Sunday saw the female novice competitors showing their stuff.
Competitors drew a huge crowd of interested onlookers. They were incredibly diverse and included mostly barefoot polers, with home-polers and studio owners, sexy style adherents and sporty, funny and character driven dancers, contemporary-inspired dancers and even a couple of pin-ups including yours truly who performed as a “Jailbird” to Elvis’ crowd-pleasing tune “Jailhouse Rock.” By mid-afternoon as the men took the stage, the room was packed with curious convention goers learning more about just how diverse pole can be. Nina Reed, who runs the PCS qualifying Colorado Pole Championship, returned as the official photographer for the event and Torwa Joe continued as an amazing emcee who kept the mostly new-to-pole crowd engaged and informed about the competition process. Pole cleaners were supplied with Bad Kitty tops and bottoms and expertly kept the schedule on track zipping up and down the poles.
PCS Pole Open Women’s Finals:
- 1st Place – Libby Ives @libbyivespole
- 2nd Place – Jessica AKA Matrix
- 3rd Place – Suzy Libby will advance to the 2018 PCS Championship!
PCS Pole Open Masters competitors:
- 1st Place – Bethany Time
- 2nd Place – Kitty Monroe
PCS Pole Open Men’s competitors:
- 1st Place – Mark Francis @mark_francis_jordan
- 2nd Place – Trice Antinoro @the_real_trice
- 3rd Place – Boris Kynonesz @boriskynonesz
PCS Pole Open Women’s Novice competitors:
- 1st Place – Courtney Keller
- 2nd Place – Lauren Osters
- 3rd Place – Tierney Maryott
Throughout the weekend polers additionally performed in concourse performances, also open to the public near the main exhibition hall. These performances showcased diverse tricks and freestyle dance well as some encore versions of their competition pieces.
Having been to the Arnold twice before, I was much more prepared for the sheer scale – in both number of people and in the size of the bodybuilders – than I was previously. Still, this event is an amazing experience, wherever you are in your fitness journey. Vendors in the main hall were all in some way fitness and wellness-based ranging from protein supplements (most of which offered free samples) to gym apparel to even a gym-focused online comic book. Per previous years, the main exhibition hall also hosted several events such as a strong man competition and also included a number of meet-and-greet opportunity with famous body builders throughout the weekend.
A few new things to the Arnold in 2017 included a mini-American Ninja Warrior course that anyone brave enough to try could try. The course included elements like the Warped Wall and Salmon Ladder. Also new to the Arnold was the Scottish Highland Games which included indoor Caber-Tossing by kilt-clad men and women amongst other feats of strength. There were also sightings of the professional strongman Hafþór Júlíus “Thor” Björnsson best known for playing “the Mountain” on the hit HBO series Game of Thrones. Allegedly he was so big he had to turn sideways to fit into the stall in the men’s restroom. This reporter did not confirm that report.
The Columbus Convention Center underwent a mini renovation for the event, expanding the already huge space even more while providing more seating and some trippy mood lighting. New and healthier food options made it easier to feed the hungry lunchtime crowds, who stayed mostly indoors due to the frigid temperatures outside.
The Arnold was once again a huge success with lines out the door and around the corner for up to an hour before the main hall opened. It was also a huge success for the pole community as the number of onlookers during the Pole Open continue to grow and grow.
Our sport/hobby/passion/art is a surprisingly diverse and complex one that most people outside the community only paint with one brush. PCS is introducing a completely different audience to our collective love of chrome (and brass!) regardless of gender or style and is doing an amazing job. A great big bravo to Lindsey Kimura and her team for yet another successful event – I can’t wait for the next one!
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