Last year, cheerleading– long the subject of debates as to whether it is or is not a sport– made a big forward stride by gaining provisional recognition by the International Olympic Committee,
Fine, said the naysayers. But you'll never see it in the Olympics.
Wrong. In fact, cheer will be showcased in the Winter Olympics at PyeongChang.
Yes, you read that correctly. Team USA will have its own cheerleaders. And so will a number of other countries. Not only that, but the cheerleaders themselves will be competing.
According to an article in Inside The Games, Team USA Cheer will represent the country in performances at awards ceremonies, Olympic venues, street parades and Closing Ceremonies. It will also compete in a cheerleading event against teams from other countries, including Norway, Germany, Switzerland, Canada and the Netherlands – all traditional medal powerhouses at the Winter Games.
Unlike many sports being showcased in the Olympics, cheer is a sport with an American pedigree. And while it is popular in many countries around the world, its stronghold is seen as the USA; in fact, the United States national team has won a combined 22 gold medals in nine years at the International Cheer Union World Championships -- ICU being the sport's world governing body.
“The United States is the birthplace of cheerleading, and we are looking forward to sharing the talent of the US-based team with the Olympic community and fans,” said Karl Olson, ICU secretary general.
Team USA Cheer will be made up of athletes from the University of Kentucky’s storied cheer program, one with a history of turning out championship squads and bringing in medals and trophies. According to UK’s website, the Wildcats have won the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) National College Cheerleading Championship an unprecedented 21 times (1985, 1987, 1988, 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016), more than any other Division IA school.) Want to see why they're unstoppable? Here's a video clip of one winning routine.
“Our athletes are among the finest in the country and appreciate this opportunity to participate in the activities surrounding the Olympic Games,” noted Jomo Thompson, head coach of the UK cheer squad. “They take this responsibility seriously and are looking forward to representing American cheerleading in Korea.”
It’s a competition that should be worth watching, though there is no immediate word as to whether medals will be awarded.
“We are pleased to see cheerleading teams of the top Winter Olympic countries represented at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games,” said Olson. “This will be an excellent and significant opportunity internationally to showcase the sport of cheer and its talented athletes.”
The PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics are due to take place from February 9 to 25. The Paralympics will follow from March 8 to 18. There was no information as to whether the USA’s cheer team would be supporting the Paralympics. However, since there are unified programs including The Sparkle Effect, which offers avenues for cheer participation to individuals with disabilities, it is conceivable other athletes could represent the larger Paralympic community as well.