Key figures in cheerleading and gymnastics hailed the sport’s provisional recognition from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as a major day in the industry’s progression.
Earlier this week, the IOC announced that cheerleading – along with the martial art of Muay Thai – had been approved, provisionally, as Olympic sports.
Cheerleading will now be eligible for IOC funding and can take part in programs focusing on athlete development and anti-doping, plus it is eligible to apply for Games admission after three years.
That means that cheerleading could make its Olympic Games bow in 2024, something that Gymnastics Australia CEO Mark Rendell said was a long time coming.
“This is a great day for cheerleading, both in Australia and around the world,” he told The New Daily.
“This recognition is something the International Cheer Union have been aiming to achieve for a long time, and it’s great to see they have now received the International Olympic Committee’s provisional recognition.
“As the governing body for both gymnastics and cheerleading in Australia, Gymnastics Australia looks forward to representing all recognised Olympic gymnastics disciplines within the IOC framework.”
Executive director of the Australian All Star Cheerleading Federation, Stephen James, added: “This is a really great result after years of hard work.
“Australia always places well in international cheerleading competitions, so the news is very exciting for us.”
Cheerleading will receive $A25,000 from the IOC, whose sports director Kit McConnell said has “over 100 national federations and nearly 4.5 million registered athletes”.
“It is a sport with growing popularity, a strong youth focus in schools and universities and we noted that.”
‘It is about bloody time’
Danielle Valmai-Jimenez, the managing director of Starlets Cheerleading, which claims to be the “most successful cheerleading program in Sydney”, said the sport’s inclusion at the Games “makes sense”.
“It [inclusion] is about bloody time,” she happily told The New Daily.
“I used to be a gymnast and really, cheerleading is so similar to gymnastics.
“It makes sense that it is involved at the Olympic Games and it is going to help people understand that is actually a sport.
“I’ve had plenty of discussions over the 13 years that I’ve had my gym on whether cheerleading is a sport, but now it has been internationally recognised – and will potentially be at the Olympics – should end them.
“Lots of people say ‘it’s just girls dancing with pompoms at NRL matches’ but we have state and national competitions, great facilities, staff – how is it not a sport?”
Ms Valmai-Jimenez said around 10,000 people attended the recent National Championships, and estimated 20,000 were involved in cheerleading in Australia.
She said “there’s no reason why we wouldn’t be in medal contention” if cheerleading does make it to the Games.
“We are amazing,” she added.
“We are really, really strong. It [cheerleading] is American-dominated but it has been a lot bigger there than around the world for a long time.
“But the US, Canada, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand are the best … our best is just as good as America’s best.”
If cheerleading is successful in making it to the Olympics, it is likely teams will perform for two-and-a-half minutes each, involving stunting, jumping, tumbling and dancing.