LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Some athletes said it was a long time ago. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted this week on what cheerleaders already knew: Cheerleading is a sport.
What you need to know
- The IOC voted this week to officially recognize cheerleading as a sport
- The local athletes cheered the decision and were pleased that their hard work was finally recognized
- Cheerleading will not be an event at the Tokyo Games
- The IOC recently added climbing, skateboarding, and breakdancing as official sports
Ryan Claunch, a University of Louisville cheerleader, said it was a sign that “many things are about to change”.
Cheerleading is an intense sport that has attracted national attention. It’s not only competitive, but also physically demanding.
“We athletes devote our whole lives to getting great at it. Every day we work in the gym to get better,” said Claunch.
People often question cheerleading and say it’s not a sport. But if you participate like Claunch, you can tell and show you the opposite.
“We are top-class athletes and I am delighted that this type of cheerleading is finally becoming known for the athleticism we put into it,” said Claunch.
Earlier this week, the IOC committee voted to recognize cheerleading as an official Olympic sport. As Cheerleader for Team USA, Claunch has spent much of the past eight years working on reaching the next level.
“Now that the Olympics may be as good as going up, I could become an Olympic champion. You know, I’ve dreamed of becoming an Olympian all my life,” said Claunch.
While cheerleading won’t be an Olympic event at the Tokyo Games, it could be a long way. In any case, local cheerleaders like Tsugumi Takeuchi are thrilled with this advancement.
“People are finally realizing how difficult this sport is and how it should be recognized, so it was very exciting,” said Takeuchi.
The 16-year-old was selected to compete on the U.S. junior all-girl team this year, and she said the committee’s decision only validates the hard work they are doing.
“It takes a full year to prepare and it’s only 2 minutes and 30 seconds, but we take all year to make sure that 2 minutes and 30 seconds is the best we can get,” added Takeuchi.
Cheerleading has long overdue recognition at the Olympics.
Misty Hodges, head coach of Louisville’s all-girl cheerleaders and co-owner of GymTyme, said it was a complicated sport.
“You see the different types of cheerleading and you can see what stunts, pyramids, basketball throws actually entail.
The former Team USA coach is delighted with the latest recognition on a global scale. Hodges hopes this will bring her sport into higher discussion for future generations.
“As with any Olympic year where kids see all the amazing opportunities, that’s what they’re going to want to try,” Hodges said.
As these athletes keep jumping up, they are another stunt to stand on the Olympic podium one day.
“Our hope is to be there. They know that in a way we want to set ourselves apart in order to build champions from the ground up,” said Hodges.
The IOC recently added climbing, skateboarding and breakdancing as official sports. The University of Kentucky cheerleading program has won 24 championships.