It’s time to CHEER
Get those pom-poms ready, because CHEER 2017 is about to storm the mat!
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 rage.com.my/cheer 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