A sport once associated with adults-only bars might headline the 2016 Olympics in Brazil if Ania Przeplasko has her way.
The founder of the International Pole Dance Fitness Association says her organization is in talks with the International Olympic Committee to make pole-dancing a "test" sport, as "aerial arts" grows in popularity around the world.
"It's not just one workout," Przeplasko said, explaining the reason behind pole dancing's rise. "When you pole dance, you combine jogging, weightlifting, and dancing all together."
Performers displayed that athleticism at the third annual International Pole Dancing Championships held in Tokyo Thursday.
Each dancer was given four minutes and two 12 foot poles to show off their talents. A former night club dancer, a competitive trampolinist, and a dance teacher were among the 28 finalists.
Japanese performer Mai Sato defended her women's championship while Australian Duncan West took home the top prize in the men's division.
Eri Kamimoto of Japan, who is hearing-impaired, grabbed top honors in the disabled division, a new addition this year.
Przeplasko said competitors traveled from as far away as Malaysia and Moldova, marking the association's most successful championship yet.
"There is a tremendous amount of talent here," competitor Chris Measday of Australia told the Associated Press. "It says a lot about where our sport is going."
Przeplasko said the competition was held in Japan for the second straight year for safety reasons.
The association wanted a country that didn't put performers in danger, a country where pole dancing was not associated with the stigma of stripping.
A clean version of the sport is already popular in countries like Australia and the U.S., and Przeplasko says it is gaining ground quickly throughout Asia.
Despite that success, Przeplasko admits pole dancing faces an uphill battle in becoming an Olympic sport.
There is currently no universal point system in the sport and names for individual pole dancing moves vary from country to country.
Still, Przeplasko remains optimistic that the sport will continue to grow and eventually take over other forms of dancing.
"You don't need a partner to pole dance," Przeplasko said. "The pole is always waiting. It never leaves you."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.