It’s time to CHEER

Get those pom-poms ready, be­cause CHEER 2017 is about to storm the mat!

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - R.age - By MYRRA BAITY­tarRAGE

MALAYSIA’S big­gest cheer­lead­ing com­pe­ti­tion, CHEER, is back!

The CHEER 2017 Grand Fi­nals, to be held on Aug 19 at Trop­i­cana City Mall, will be an en­tire day of grav­i­ty­de­fy­ing stunts and grace­ful twirls cer­tain to wow all spec­ta­tors.

But for the cheerleaders them­selves, CHEER is the cul­mi­na­tion of months of train­ing.

Teams across the coun­try start plan­ning their rou­tines months in ad­vance, work­ing hard to­wards the ul­ti­mate goal: a CHEER tro­phy.

For seven-time High School Se­nior All-Girl champs the Cyrens from SM Sri Kuala Lumpur, they start even ear­lier.

“We im­me­di­ately start plan­ning for the next com­pe­ti­tion right af­ter CHEER ends,” said Cyrens cap­tain Cas­san­dra Yang, 17, adding that the team un­der­goes a gru­elling twohour train­ing ses­sion al­most every day to stay ready.

The stakes are high for Yang. She’s re­turn­ing for her sec­ond CHEER as team cap­tain, and is de­ter­mined for the Cyrens to con­tinue its reign for an un­prece­dented eighth year. To do that, she’s up­ping the ante.

“We are go­ing to do even more dif­fi­cult ver­sions of stunts that we did last year,” she said with a steely de­ter­mi­na­tion that be­lies her perky on-stage per­sona.

Cheer­lead­ing is a sport that looks eas­ier than it is, but as any team cap­tain will tell you, be­hind the shiny cos­tumes and sassy hair-twirls lie just as much grit and de­ter­mi­na­tion as any other sport.

“We al­ways push our­selves to the max­i­mum so the team can achieve its best,” said Ca­lyx Co-Ed cap­tain Yong Yu Shawn, 17. “It’s the only way to win.”

And push them­selves they do. “We train three hours a day, every day,” said Chow Khai Wen, 20. Chow leads Sun­way Univer­sity Cheer­lead­ing Se­nior, the team that won CHEER’s very first Col­lege Di­vi­sion last year.

And it’s not just prac­tis­ing stunts, it’s also ba­sic strength train­ing that every cheer­leader needs in or­der to last an en­tire rou­tine.

We’re talk­ing pushups, sit ups, squat jumps, jump­ing jacks and more, so every cheer­leader must be at his or her phys­i­cal peak if they want to win.

With prac­tice ses­sions pro­ceed­ing at this level of in­ten­sity, in­juries aren’t un­com­mon in cheer­lead­ing. Every mem­ber runs the risk of sprains and even bro­ken bones.

How­ever, Yong, who re­cently had to re­work his team’s en­tire rou­tine be­cause a mem­ber got in­jured, said he has learnt his les­son.

“Al­ways have a coach present when try­ing out a new stunt,” he said wryly.

In­juries aren’t the only chal­lenges faced by cheer­lead­ing teams. Teams like Anselm, from SMK In­fant Je­sus Con­vent in Me­laka, some­times face lo­gis­ti­cal is­sues as well.

Their three coaches come from Kuala Lumpur, which means they only get su­per­vised train­ing once a week.

But thanks to tech­nol­ogy, they’re cop­ing with the in­con­ve­nience. Team cap­tain Yap Chien Wen, 17, records their prac­tice ses­sions and sends them to their coaches for re­view­ing.

It’s not easy, but she’s de­ter­mined to make it work.

“We won last year (in the High School Ju­nior All-Girls cat­e­gory), and that has mo­ti­vated us to try even harder to win again,” she said.

Last year’s vic­tory was par­tic­u­larly sweet for Anselm, who were huge un­der­dogs. Prior to their win, they were on the verge of get­ting shut down due to a lack of sup­port from the school.

But now, things are dif­fer­ent. On top of re­ceiv­ing an out­pour­ing of sup­port from their school, par­ents as well as teach­ers, they were in­vited by an­other school, SMJK Yok Bin, to show­case their cheer­lead­ing skills – some­thing they couldn’t have imag­ined a year ago.

“It makes me so happy that now peo­ple want us to help with cheer­lead­ing,” said Yap with a smile. “Be­fore this, no­body ever asked us for any­thing.”

Anselm isn’t the only team to have faced a lack of sup­port – even cham­pion teams like the Cyrens have no­ticed peo­ple’s scep­ti­cism when told cheer­lead­ing is a le­git­i­mate sport.

“It’s be­cause they haven’t seen us train!” Yang said with a laugh. “Once they do, they’ll know for sure it’s def­i­nitely a sport.”

How­ever, thanks to na­tion­wide com­pe­ti­tions like CHEER, which is or­gan­ised by R.AGE, The Star Me­dia Group’s youth plat­form, the sport is gain­ing more recog­ni­tion.

Sri KL not only sup­ports both its cheer­lead­ing teams – Cyrens and its sis­ter team Rayvens (which ended a five-year win­ning streak by com­ing third at CHEER 2016) – it en­cour­ages its stu­dents to do so too.

Bus­loads of sup­port­ers in Cyrens’ and Rayvens’ team colours pack every sin­gle CHEER venue, and have emerged champs as well in the Best Sup­port­ers cat­e­gory.

“That’s why we work so hard,” Yang said.

“We don’t want to let any­body down, and we’ll work to­wards be­ing cham­pi­ons again!”

CHEER 2017 is sup­ported by the Youth and Sports Min­istry, the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry and the Cheer­lead­ing As­so­ci­a­tion and Registry of Malaysia.

XOX Mo­bile is the of­fi­cial part­ner of CHEER 2017, with Sun­way Ed­u­ca­tion Group its prize spon­sor.

For the lat­est in­for­ma­tion on CHEER 2017 and to down­load en­try forms, visit or face­book. com/thestarcheer. #TheStarCHEER #OneMu­sicCHEER #StarXOXCHEER

Ca­lyx Ju­nior emerged cham­pi­ons of the Co-Ed cat­e­gory last year, and are de­ter­mined to take the tro­phy home again. — LOW LAY PHON/The Star

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