Cheerleading looming as an Olympic event

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ROMY P. MARIÑAS

If trampoline made it to the Olympic calendar after many years of trying to get in as a legitimate event in arguably the greatest sports show on earth, then there is hope for… cheerleading.

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In December last year, cheerleading secured provisional recognition as a discipline in the quadrennial games, raising hopes in the Philippines that the country could take part in it as a certified competitor.

It used to be a sideshow in the NCAA, the UAAP and other major leagues in these parts until it dawned on sports honchos that cheerleading could be not only an entertaining “distraction” but also a real deal of a competitive event.

Thus, it has become a hotly contested battle of skill and courage (lots of this especially considering that young women are thrown into the air like marshmallows in extremely dangerous stunts) particularly in the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the University Athletic Association of the Philippines.

Although “cheerleading” is more popularly referred to as “cheerdance” or “cheerdancing” here, whatever one chooses to call it apparently does not matter even to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

According to a report, “while cheerleading’s strong youth appeal was clearly attractive to the IOC, widespread international participation is also key to taking the next steps toward a place at the Summer [Olympic] Games.”

Such participation was not mustered by bowling, a “demonstration” sport in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, whose women’s draw incidentally was won by Arianne Cerdena of the Philippines for the country’s first “gold” medal after several decades of a fruitless search for one.

Bowling has since been dropped from the Olympic calendar, apparently because some people find it “boring” and no offense meant to Rafael “Paeng” Nepomuceno, the great Filipino bowler who was World Cup champion four times.

The same report said there are “over 100 national federations registered with the International Cheer Union” or ICU, with those from the United States and Canada being acknowledged as the most competitive.

But now, according Jim Webb, “the man who has driven [cheerleading’s] growth over four decades,” there is “a lot of parity with countries from Europe and Asia.”

Sadly, rope jumping suffered the same fate as bowling when its movers attempted to campaign for its inclusion in the Olympic Games.

These game-changers have not stopped and so we might yet see luksong-tinik enthusiasts from piko country that is the Philippines to be hopping their way to the Games.

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