Sim­ply the best

Meet the teenage girls be­hind the Cyrens, ar­guably Malaysia’s great­est cheer­lead­ing team. EVER.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - R. AGE - By CLARISSA SAY claris­sasay@thes­

WHEN Jaymee Tan first started coach­ing the Cyrens cheer­lead­ing squad in 2010, they had placed 21st out of over 30 teams at CHEER, Malaysia’s big­gest cheer­lead­ing com­pe­ti­tion. The very next year, they were the cham­pi­ons of Malaysian cheer­lead­ing, a ti­tle they’ve held ever since.

Just two weeks ago, the Cyrens, who rep­re­sent SM Sri Kuala Lumpur, won their record- ex­tend­ing sev­enth CHEER cham­pi­ons’ tro­phy, mak­ing them the most suc­cess­ful team the coun­try has ever seen, and ar­guably its great­est.

The team now boasts some in­cred­i­ble young ath­letes. They might still be teenagers, but ev­ery time they per­form, they leave peo­ple awestruck with their ac­ro­batic stunts and per­fectly chore­ographed rou­tines.

But that wasn’t al­ways the case, ac­cord­ing to Tan.

“When the Cyrens first started out, there wasn’t much of a sup­port sys­tem or proper struc­ture in place,” she said. “The girls were tal­ented, no doubt, but cheer­lead­ing was still a new thing back then.”

She got started on whip­ping them into shape. Within weeks, the squad of 21 girls had dropped to just 12 be­cause they couldn’t han­dle her gru­elling train­ing rou­tines.

“But it didn’t mat­ter, be­cause those 12 were re­ally com­mit­ted and dis­ci­plined. So I trained them up any­way and they did re­ally well for their school’s sports day per­for­mance, and that at­tracted three more girls to join, so we had 15, and we brought those 15 to com­pe­ti­tion. And they won!”

That was seven cham­pi­onships ago. Now ev­ery­one in Sri KL – and the wider Malaysian cheer­lead­ing scene – knows that if you want to be part of the Cyrens, you’d bet­ter be will­ing to work in­sanely hard. And you’d bet­ter be good.

The Cyrens train four days a week, all year long, do­ing strength ex­er­cises you’d ex­pect more from mil­i­tary boot­camps than se­condary school cheer­lead­ing prac­tice.

They do a com­bi­na­tion of spine rolls, sit- ups, squat jumps, ba­nana rock­ing, back raises, push- ups, high knees, leg kicks and sprints for two- and- a- half hours; and that’s not even in­clud­ing their per­for­mance re­hearsals, where they prac­tice all their high- fly­ing stunts.

“It’s def­i­nitely dif­fi­cult for first- timers,” said Cas­san­dra Yang, the Cyrens’ cap­tain for 2016. “Most peo­ple aren’t used to that level of in­ten­sity and I’ve seen peo­ple strug­gle be­cause they’ve never done any­thing this hard­core be­fore.”

Caityin Ta­nia Dean, 16, hates jump squats the most. “Ev­ery time we do it, my legs feel like they’re go­ing to fall off.”

If the girls train like sol­diers, then Tan is their drill sergeant, and she has a zero- tol­er­ance pol­icy on com­pla­cency or slug­gish­ness.

“I’m very big on ef­fi­ciency,” said Tan, a for­mer com­pet­i­tive cheer­leader her­self. “Mov­ing fast so you can get more done in the same amount of train­ing time is some­thing I con­stantly em­pha­sise.”

The team’s at­ti­tude to­wards train­ing wasn’t the only thing that changed in 2010. Af­ter they won that first tro­phy, the school’s ad­min­is­tra­tion be­gan to pay more at­ten­tion to the Cyrens, ac­cord­ing to Joanna Jo­han John, the teacher in charge of the Cyrens.

“The school be­gan cul­ti­vat­ing this cul­ture of sup­port, hold­ing events where par­ents and the other stu­dents would come and watch videos and demon­stra­tions from the cheer­lead­ers, lis­ten to the coach’s speeches and min­gle with each other,” said Tan.

“Events like that help ev­ery­one be­come more sup­port­ive and un­der­stand the sport bet­ter. And when peo­ple un­der­stand some­thing bet­ter, they feel more emo­tion­ally in­vested.”

To get the en­tire school hyped up for CHEER each year, there’s the tra­di­tional prom­ise of a hol­i­day the day af­ter ev­ery win. No sur­prise then, that the sup­port­ers of the Cyrens and their ju­nior sis­ter team, Rayvens, have won the CHEER Best Sup­port­ers Award al­most ev­ery since 2010 ( they missed out in 2011).

Their sup­port­ers ar­rive at CHEER ev­ery year by the bus­loads and, in true cheer­lead­ing spirit, make it a point to cheer and sup­port even the Cyrens and Rayvens’ big­gest ri­vals.

But prob­a­bly the big­gest se­cret to the Cyrens’ suc­cess isn’t their strength train­ing or their school’s sup­port sys­tem – it’s the school’s

The Cyrens per­form­ing at CHEEr 2016, en route to the se­nior All- Girls Di­vi­sion ti­tle – their sev­enth con­sec­u­tive win. — sAm THAm/ The star

Cyrens cap­tain yang tak­ing a selfie – cheer­leader style – with her team­mates, a week af­ter their CHEEr 2016 win. — yAp CHEE HONG/ The star

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