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Cheerleading and Olympic Sport, a Best Kept Secret

Dec. 23, 2019, 12 a.m. (ET)

Certainly, when most Americans think of cheerleading it usually involves sideline entertainment during high school and college football and basketball games. I certainly did as the CEO of USA Pentathlon, one of the oldest Olympic events. And while the origin of cheerleading is embedded in American culture and continues to thrive, Cheerleading in its competitive format goes leaps and bounds even farther. Competitive cheerleading as a sport is every bit as thrilling and adrenaline packed as any major sporting event.

In 2014, USA Pentathlon was hosting a World Cup in Sarasota, Florida. I had the good fortune of meeting Jeff Webb and Karl Olson, the President and Secretary General of the International Cheer Union (ICU) and we discussed the World Cup and the opportunity the event could provide to both our federations.

ICU and its United States National Federation member, USA Cheer, organized members of the US National Cheerleading squad and they performed throughout our World Cup, absolutely “wowing” and captivating the crowd of spectators. We had nearly 40 nations participating with many of them never having seen skill at the level demonstrated by the US National Team Cheerleaders. We benefited by the show the athletes provided and the ICU & USA Cheer benefited by demonstrating to an international sporting community the skill, daring and coordinated athleticism presented by the Cheer athletes.

Since 2014, the partnership between USA Pentathlon, ICU & USA Cheer has allowed the international teams participating in every World Cup and World Championships in the USA (6 major events) to watch in awe and admiration at the excellence in athleticism by cheer teams assembled by the ICU from around the nation – and of course we were delighted to see Cheer involved in the 2018 Winter Olympic games.

We have encouraged other national sport federations to take advantage of the generosity of the ICU and USA Cheer and consider their willingness to participate at these events as, “one of the best kept secrets in sport”.