Cheerleading Tumbles into the Olympics

Greta Morton, culture editor

The great debate about whether or not cheerleading is a sport has finally come to an end: earlier last week, the International Olympic Committee voted and announced that cheerleading will provisionally be recognized as an Olympic sport.

While this news does not mean cheerleaders will be able to compete in the Olympics anytime soon, it does mean that the sport, represented by the International Cheer Union, will now receive $25,000 from the IOC in annual funding. This highly popular sport has almost 4.5 million registered athletes and more than 100 national federations. During their three year long recognition period, the Union can apply for more grants as well and take part in more athlete development and anti-doping focused programs. Once the recognition period is up, they will be able to petition to take part in the actual Olympic Games. At any time before this period is over however, the IOC may vote to officially recognize cheerleading as a sport.

“This recognition is something the International Cheer Union [has] 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,” said Gymnastics Australia CEO, Mark Rendell, according to The New Daily.

Unfortunately, cheerleaders will not be able to compete in the 2018 Games in South Korea and the 2020 Games in Tokyo, but they do have a chance at the 2024 Olympics. Once eligible to compete, teams will be judged on general impressions, stunt work, pyramids, jumps, dances, and tumbles in a two and a half minute time period, similarly to how they are judged in state cheer competitions in the United States.

According to Kit McConnell, an IOC sports director, popularity in youth was a large factor in the decision making process. “Cheerleading is a sport with growing popularity. It has a strong youth focus and we noted that,” said McConnell, according to the BBC.

For the same reason, skateboarding, karate, and surfing will all be making an appearance at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Muay Thai, a sport similar to kickboxing, has also received the same status as cheerleading as of the vote last week. The IOC aims to appeal to more youth with the addition of new sports; it has the potential to bring in countless young fans from any country. However, it is often difficult to be added to the Olympic lineup and easy to be dropped. Gymnastics, swimming, fencing, and cycling are the only four sports to have been staged every year at the Games since the first Olympics in 1896. Sports like tug of war, cricket, and lacrosse were all once part of the Games, but were cut in the early to mid 1900s.

“I used to be a gymnast and really, cheerleading is so similar to gymnastics,” said Danielle Valmai-Jimenez, the managing director of Starlets Cheerleading, The New Daily reported. “It makes sense that it is involved at the Olympic Games and it is going to help people understand that it is actually a sport.”