CLASS ACT - Athletes from Premier Academy competed in the Cheerleading World Championships this past April.

Local cheerleaders excited to see their sport recognized by IOC

A local Red Deer cheerleading academy is excited about the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s recent decision to grant their sport provisional Olympic status.

Earlier this month, the IOC announced that it would grant two sports — cheerleading and muaythai — the provisional designation, which will allow the sports to access some IOC funding and take part in a number of Olympic programs such as athlete development and anti-doping.

The designation is the first step for sports which hope to someday become part of the slate of events at the Olympic Games.

At the end of a three-year provisional recognition period, cheerleading’s governing body, the International Cheer Union, can apply to become part of the Olympic Games program, although cities hosting the Olympics also have the option of introducing sports of their choice to make one-time appearances at the Games as test events.

The entire process takes about seven years to complete.

Riana Luck, the owner of the Premier Academy of Cheerleading and Tumbling in Red Deer, said that for local athletes, the IOC’s decision could open doors that none of them ever thought possible.

“It allows for kids to dream big and see the bigger picture,” she said, adding that in the world of competitive cheerleading, there are a lot of really amazing programs for athletes to shoot for.

One such program, said Luck, is the World Cheerleading Championship, which takes place every year in Orlando.

“That’s the largest cheerleading competition there is right now and there are teams that travel throughout the world for that.”

Right now, that World Championship is the highest level of competition in the sport of cheerleading.

But the Olympic Games would be a whole new level, featuring the very best of the best.

“This would be the next step to go from worlds and then also have the Olympics side of things with it. Like I said, it’s another goal. It’s another opportunity for kids to dream big,” said Luck.

The potential to become part of the Olympics could also be huge for the continued growth of cheerleading as a sport.

“There’s a stereotype out there that cheerleading is just the kids, the girls on the sidelines with their pom poms in a supportive role, and it was that in the past. But it has evolved so much over the past number of years,” Luck said, adding that, in Canada, cheerleading is becoming a highly competitive sport.

“It incorporates a lot of different athletic endeavours with it. There’s the gymnastics side of things in terms of tumbling. Then there’s the stunting side with the acrobatics of it. There’s dance included in it and there are jumps included in it,” she explained.

In competition, each team performs a two-and-a-half minute routine which incorporates all of the skills listed above.

“It’s very high energy and it’s very demanding in terms of athletics and it’s very team-oriented as well.”

In an interview with Reuters, IOC Sports Director Kim McConnell said cheerleading was included, in part, due to the fact that it is a sport with growing popularity with a strong youth focus in schools and universities.

According to a press release sent out by the Premier Academy, there are over 250 competitive cheerleaders in Red Deer ranging in age from three to 18.

zcormier@reddeerexpress.com