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Pole dancer takes on world single-handed

Updated September 05, 2012 17:38:00

Being born with one arm hasn't stopped Deb Roach from becoming a pole dancer, being sexy and aiming to take on the world in the growing sport of pole dancing.

Source: 7.30 | Duration: 6min 15sec

Topics: disabilities, dance, australia


Note, the video on this page is a slightly longer edit of the story while the transcript below reflects the shorter version that aired on Tuesday 4 September.

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: If you've been watching the many inspiring performances in the Paralympics here's a sport you wouldn't have seen: pole dancing. Most of us would struggle just to climb a pole, but Deb Roach, the 2012 Ultimate Pole Champion, is taking on the world single-handedly. Monique Schafter compiled this report.

DEB ROACH, POLE DANCER: People's reactions to the fact that I'm a pole dancer are really mixed. Mostly women I'm okay telling, but guys I have to really be able to read... like if I say I'm a pole dancer they're likely to see G-strings and high heels and strip clubs and things like that, and that's not what I do at all.

It's very gymnastic, I don't often wear shoes, I keep all my clothes on, and I'm not going to ask you for $20 for the privilege of watching me.

Pole is definitely hard. It's hard for people with two arms; it's exceptionally hard for me.

Climbing a pole with one hand isn't particularly different; I'll take you through the process.

You reach as high as you can; you bring your back foot up on to the pole nice and high. You grab between your kneecaps, pull up, adjust the grip.

LYN ROACH, DEB'S MOTHER: When Deb was born I hadn't had an ultrasound, so it was total shock. They presented the baby to me wrapped up with one little hand out of the blanket and I thought to myself, oh, they've wrapped her other arm up.

And then about three hours later, my husband and several doctors came in and, you know... "There's a bit of a problem."

She was my baby and that was all that mattered. When she was little we told her anything she wanted to do in life she could do.

Some of the things she would do differently to people with two arms, but she would be able to master just about everything else. We could have mollycoddled her and she wouldn't be as driven as she is today.

DEB ROACH: Growing up with one arm was pretty horrible. I was picked on incessantly. I was teaseed every day, every day. My memories and my experiences were of isolation and rejection.

At school I was always the girl that was last picked for the sports teams. I have a very short fuse, a very fiery temper, and if anyone gave me crap I would give it straight back.

LYN ROACH: Horror, shock, horror: the pole dancing revelation. I thought, oh my god, strip clubs! Money in the G-string! And she said, "No, mum, it's not like that."

DEB ROACH: I had such chronic self-esteem issues and poor self-confidence before I'd become a dancer. I really felt like I had something to prove.

I wanted to get up on that stage and show I was at least as good as those other able-bodied girls. That I wasn't repulsive, that my body wasn't disgusting and didn't need to be hidden. I was just as worthy of expression and display, and I was just as sexy as they were.

It helped me overcome depression, anxiety and long-term chronic illness. I was very angry but not anymore.

CHRISTINE ROACH, DEB'S SISTER: She makes me think, well I need to suck it up sometimes.

BEC ROACH, DEB'S SISTER: I think dealing with it, with a bit of humour is always a good thing as well. Like there's the family joke of, "She's pretty armless". That will come out consistently.

LYN ROACH: With all her achievements I'm really proud of her. I don't tell her enough, but she's done a lot more than I could do and I've got two arms. I'm very proud.

DEB ROACH: I encourage people to push to their limits to find what that limit is, to hug it and to try to push past it, because we don't get results, get further, become better unless we start pushing that boundary.