Four years ago, after leaving gymnastics, my daughters became competitive cheerleaders. It’s an amazing sport that has provided them with a world of great opportunities and lifelong memories.
Recently, I was discussing my daughters’ sport of choice with a friend and I said “my daughters do Competitive Cheerleading…it’s like power tumbling, but there’s no pom poms.” He then added that he had seen competitive Cheerleading on TV, knew what it was all about, and then pointed out that in every conversation we’d ever had about Cheer, I’d felt the need to somehow justify the sport by adding “but there’ s no pom poms.”
This really got me thinking.
I know that Cheer is an amazing sport. After four years of watching competitions, I am continually amazed at the sheer power it takes for the athletes to perform their routines – all done with a smile on their faces despite exhaustion and physical stress. Cheer is a rigorously demanding sport involving skills that often take years to perfect. Cheerleaders are unbelievably tough both mentally and physically. Worldwide, cheer’s popularity is skyrocketing and international competitions are now covered by ESPN.
So this week, to the delight of all those cheerleaders and parents like myself who still feel the need to explain the sport, it was announced that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to recognize cheerleading as a sport, granting $25,000 in annual funding to the International Cheer Union (ICU).
This means that the ICU, the recognized international governing body of Cheerleading, will now have a three-year recognition period, during which they can apply for additional grants. After that, they can petition to be officially included in the Olympic Games.
This announcement could not have come soon enough, as Cheer’s popularity around the globe is soaring. While once considered a very “American” sport, young athletes worldwide are recognizing Cheerleading’s appeal. In 2004, the first World Cheerleading Championships included only 14 select teams from across the United States. In only one decade, there are now 70 nations now competing for the coveted World Championship ring, with over 3.5 million cheer athletes across the continents.
Those of us who know that cheer is more than just bows and glitter cannot be happier as we anxiously await Cheer’s debut at the Olympics. Young athletes will now be able to look up to their nation Olympic heroes with a sense of pride and satisfaction.
Dana Gisana/Limelight Allstars Mom