"I can only clearly watch my performances a while after the competition is over" - interview with Rafaela Montanaro
Multiple pole sports world champion, also national champion of the USA. Black Swan, Phantom of the Opera, Nutcracker with some twist - just some of her most famous routines. She hardly ever makes a mistake on stage. Interview with Rafaela Montanaro.
How did you pole carreer start?
It started in 2009. I was researching youtube videos, looking for circus acts for a project in college, when I ran across Felix Cane’s video from Miss Pole Dance Australia 2006! I still remember where I was seating and the impact it had on me. My mind was blown!! I thought to myself: I can totally learn that!! The next step was finding someone to teach me, which was not easy. Took me 5 months to find an instructor I liked!
As far as I remember you have a gymnasts background. How did it help you on pole and how does it help now?
Yes I do! I started and quit training gymnastics very young (from 3-12), but it was so intense and meaningful that it shaped me in to who I am, the good and the bad. Gymnastics training helped me in obvious ways (strength, flexibility, coordination) but most of all, it is the mindset that really helped me. As an athlete, specially child-athlete, we learn how to deal with pain, stress, long training hours, before we learn how to ride the bus by ourselves lol. I knew how to train, and what I had to do to learn the moves my teacher could not teach me. I knew hard work paid off, believed in myself, could set goals for the future and reach for them.
Did you try any other sports?
Yes! All “weird sports”. I was in the Brazilian Kung fu team in 2006, I briefly trained pole vault, and ended up in circus school! I even went to France to learn more about it in 2002/2003.
What about dancing? Did you have to develop those skills as well?
Yes. During gymnastics we had to take ballet as well, 3-4 times a week. I really enjoyed it! And right after quitting gymnastics I started taking Jazz and contemporary dance classes! Absolutely LOVE it!
What is you last thought before entering the stage?
“You got this Rafa!” It is amazing how much our thoughts and influence what we do. We can train our mind to behave in a way that helps us.
Do you analize you videos of you performances?
Oh yes!!! That is half of my training right there (she laughs). But I can only clearly watch my performances a while after the competition is over. When I am too emotionally involved it is hard to see clearly and I tend to think everything I do is crap.
How and how long do you prepare for a competition?
It depends in what phase I’m in. I always do 1 hour of cardio a day. During basic training (more conditioning preparation) i train for 4-5 hours a day 4-5 days a week. During the specific preparation phase I train 4 hours/day, 5days/week. And finally during pre competitive phase I train for 2-3 hours/day, 6 days/week.
Who helps you to prepare?
My whole family does! My main motivator is my fiancé, Robby. I could NEVER do this without him! My mom also helps out a lot, she was a gymnastics coach and can spot any flaws. Nowadays, she works directing actors, so she can give me a great input on my performances regarding expression.
Do you also prepare yourself mentally?
For sure! I have the help of a sports psychologist , and this made all the difference. The mind controls everything you do, and power is nothing without control.
Which achievement are you proud of?
I am very proud of being on the way to beating my eating disorder. During my gymnastics years food was always a huge deal, and when I got older it developed to anxiety binges, which made me feel very guilty and depressed, which would make me want to eat even more. With the help of my therapist I am finally walking away from it!
Are you taking any kind of diet when preparing for a competition?
Yes! I have a sports nutritionist that takes of that for me and I trust her with my life! She is still in Brazil and has to work with me virtually. I like to compare what we eat with what kind of gas we put in our car: good gas takes us further, and keeps all the parts running well!
What do you expect from POSA World Championship?
I expect it to be a great event, where pole sports is celebrated. I always feel so welcome, and respected at POSA Events, they really make an effort to providing information and care to their athletes.
What is you biggest motivation now?
My biggest motivation is always outdoing myself, being better than what I was yesterday. Learning new things, perfecting my technique and hopefully inspiring other people to do so.
Any pole dreams that haven’t been fulfilled yet?
I would love to see pole sports competition in large networks, athletes getting sponsored by big sporting brands, federations having funds to support their athletes/coaches. Oh and the rainbow marchenko! (she laughs) But this one will have to remain a dream.