Cheer­lead­ing boasts in­ter­na­tional ap­peal

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Cheer­lead­ing, which re­ceived pro­vi­sional recog­ni­tion as an Olym­pic sport last week, is an in­creas­ingly in­ter­na­tional ac­tiv­ity by no means re­stricted to its North Amer­i­can birth­place, ac­cord­ing to the man who has driven its growth over four decades.

Jim Webb has helped trans­form cheer­lead­ing from side­line entertainment at Amer­i­can foot­ball and basketball games to the sport that was granted recog­ni­tion by the In­ter­na­tional Olym­pic Com­mit­tee. Cheer­lead­ing will now be able to tap into some IOC fund­ing and take part in a num­ber of pro­grammes, in­clud­ing ath­lete devel­op­ment and an­tidop­ing. At the end of their three-year pro­vi­sional recog­ni­tion pe­riod, they can ap­ply to be­come part of the Olym­pic Games sports pro­gramme. While cheer­lead­ing’s strong youth ap­peal was clearly at­trac­tive to the IOC, wide­spread in­ter­na­tional par­tic­i­pa­tion is also key to tak­ing the next steps to­wards a place at the Sum­mer Games.

With over 100 na­tional fed­er­a­tions reg­is­tered with the In­ter­na­tional Cheer Union (ICU), Webb is cer­tain the com­pet­i­tive­ness of the sport would not be con­fined to just North Amer­ica.

“When we first started our world cham­pi­onships there was a big gap be­tween the US and Canada and now there is a lot of par­ity with coun­tries from Europe and Asia that win medals and that some­times beat the US and Cana­dian teams,” he told Reuters.

“Thai­land has some great cheer­lead­ing. Ja­pan has out­stand­ing cheer­lead­ing. Some of the coun­tries in Europe, Nor­way, Fin­land, Ger­many, the UK has out­stand­ing cheer­lead­ing. It’s de­vel­op­ing ev­ery­where.”

The ad­di­tion of cheer­lead­ing and the Thai mar­tial art of muaythai last week takes the num­ber of recog­nised Olym­pic sports to 37, only 28 of which were part of the pro­gramme at the Rio Olympics ear­lier this year.

“One of the prob­lems for the Olym­pic Games is there are just so many sports and that could change,” Webb added.

“But when some­body goes in, some­body has to go out and of course we’re not in­ter­ested in cre­at­ing any en­e­mies. There’s so many sports be­ing formed now that it’s tough, it’s a crowded space and they vet you very, very thor­oughly.”

Webb, who founded his cheer­lead­ing pro­mo­tional com­pany Var­sity Sports in 1974, is very clear on what the sport can of­fer the Olym­pic move­ment.

“One of the key com­po­nents of what we do that makes it very dif­fer­ent is that vis­ual ef­fect of so many peo­ple do­ing these dif­fer­ent stunts and skills at the same time that make it very ap­peal­ing to watch,” he added. —Reuters

CHICAGO: A cheer­leader per­forms dur­ing a break be­tween the Bulls and the Min­nesota Tim­ber­wolves at the United Cen­ter on Tues­day in Chicago, Illi­nois. —AFP

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