'I think my handicap helps me challenge myself constantly. Do not try to be perfect, be real. People come and go; you can't please everyone.'
Looking on the bright side of things and proving your point: Dyennifer de Melo Luca's smile is just a glimpse into this life philosophy. French national gold medallist in Para Pole, Dyenn also earned the world record in her category during the French National Championships Pole Sports France. What's next? She will represent her country at the World Pole Championships.
Can you tell us who you are?
My name is Dyennifer, but my friends call me Dyenn! I am a 31-year-old French woman and I work in the aeronautical industry. I have been practising Pole Sports for 3 years despite my birth handicap: the Poland syndrome. I have a smaller hand and I miss the pectoral muscle on the left side. I am proud to show the world that with work, everything is possible.
What does Para Pole mean to you? How much space does the training take in your life?
For me, Para Pole is a great message to the world; everybody can do it, even if you have a handicap. When I was younger, I could never have imagined competing in the World Championships in any sports. I may have to work more than another person, but each day I prove to myself that I can do more than I think. I started pole three years ago with a wonderful teacher who took the time to adapt the exercises for me. I subsequently started flexibility training one year ago with an equally awesome teacher. I train 5 or 6 times weekly, respecting my body's needs.
Do you think starting your flexibility and athletic journey well into adulthood has benefits?
I never did gymnastics or dance of any kind. I started when I was 28 years old, my body wasn't flexible at all. It was difficult to start from scratch but beginning such training later in life gave me the maturity to listen to my body and be more patient, the way I probably would not have been as a child or adolescent. As a result, my focus is positive; each progress means a lot to me. I am proud of every slight improvement!
Behind your story, we can see a strong personality; how much do you think someone's character influences the outcomes of a specific journey?
I do not have the answer for everyone, but I think my handicap helps me challenge myself constantly. Even if I am not naturally flexible, even though I have not practiced dance or gymnastics since I was a child, I wanted to try and prove to myself that I can do it. I am not graceful, but I try and learn. I take classes with wonderful people who help me in my journey. The most important thing is to surround me with the right people (teachers, friends) who help me progress with fun and good pieces of advice.
Can you explain specifically how your handicap challenges you in Pole Sports?
My left hand can't grab the pole, but I can push myself back. Also, missing my left pectoral muscles does not allow me to do some tricks and holds, but I adapt and find alternatives. My left shoulder compensates for what my pectoral should do, so I lack mobility on that side. That is not a problem: I work hard to correct it; time is my best ally.
Regarding lifestyle, are there rules you obey in terms of diet and life habits?
During the competition season, I adopt a strict diet. As a general rule, I eat a balanced diet and take FLEXIBLE every morning with my coffee. I allow myself 'cheat meals' because I find it important not to live in frustration. I try as much as possible to choose the least processed foods from local producers. I like to cook so I eat a variety of foods with spices to give them flavour.
What would you tell the 15-year-old Dyenn you wish someone had told you then?
Do not try to be perfect, be real. People come and go; you can't please everyone. Be yourself and trust yourself, and you'll be fine! You can achieve big things in this world; you will have to work hard to accomplish your dreams. Everything is possible.
What is your wildest dream?
My wildest dream? I don't really know, but I have a lot of goals. I think it is already unbelievable to participate in the World Pole Championships. So the next step is to win it! I hope one day I'll be able to be as flexible as my teacher. Who knows, perhaps one day I'll own a pole studio? I trust in life; everything is possible.
Also, I want an apartment with a rooftop in the middle of New York. One day, I'll get it! ;)
Anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
I want to show the process of work, the failures and the successes because this is real life!