Time was running out; it was three hours to the big show, and the cheerleaders were all mentally and physically psyched to unleash their talent. But then, during the final rehearsal (which took place in a mall), the unimaginable happened: the team captain fell from an escalator and seriously hurt his leg.

Despite having very little time to alter their routine to impress both the audience and judges, Malaysian representatives, Cheer Aces, pulled it off by bagging two silver medals at the Seacon International Cheer Challenge 2014 held in Bangkok, Thailand on Oct 25.


Proud teens: Malaysian all-star cheerleading team, Cheer Aces shone at the 2014 Seacon International Cheer Challenge in Bangkok, Thailand where they bagged two silver medals.

“We are quite fortunate because the Thailand Cheerleading Association was really nice to us – they knew that we had to change the routine, so they rescheduled our performance time to the final event. They even allowed us to practice whenever the mat was free,” said Loh Kheen Ho, founder and director of Cheer Aces Enterprise, a company he formed to coach aspiring young cheerleaders.

Loh, a 25-year-old armed with only a high school certificate from SMK Seafield, Subang Jaya, Selangor, earns a decent three to four thousand ringgit a month for his passion. “I fell in love with cheerleading from the time I joined my school cheerleading team in 2005. I was amazed with the teamwork, trust, hard work and discipline the team displayed in perfecting their routines,” reminisced the former Cheer contestant fondly.

“After that, I made up my mind that I wanted to promote cheerleading and be a cheerleading coach because I believe there are a lot of benefits that can be gained through this sport, like discipline, time management, endurance, flexibility and physical and mental strength,” added Loh.

Picking up the pom poms

Cheerleading teams consist of 12 to 20 members in a standard competition and team members can be a mixture of boys and girls, described as a coed team. To compete at an international level is not as easy as one might think as it requires two to four hours of training per week and up to 10 hours a week when there is a competition looming.

According to Loh, there are no special dietary requirements for the cheerleaders to stay in peak form. “We don’t have any specific routine or diet plan because all the cheerleaders are in their teens, so, they are very likely to already be eating well.”

Cheerleaders are not complete without their striking uniforms. But those uniforms and every single peripheral item associated with cheerleading does not come cheap. “Cheerleading as a sport comes with a price, which includes the uniform, shoes, props and the coaching fee, which excludes the competitions and workshops that are often held overseas,” Loh revealed.

Competing or attending workshops abroad can be an eye-opener for cheerleaders as they get to learn new techniques and skills. The added bonus is, they also get to promote their nation at an international level.

Heavy lifting

Cheerleaders are often stereotyped – the girls are brats and the boys are softies. Of course, that’s far from the truth. In fact, Loh thinks that perception is a riot. “Cheerleaders need to be strong both mentally and physically, regardless of their gender,” explained Loh.

The need to remain physically and mentally tough is especially crucial as there is always an accident involved in cheerleading – it’s unavoidable, but it serves as a lesson to be extra careful while rehearsing. “There are plenty of scary moments, but it is all about practicing safe techniques to minimise injury. To be honest, cheerleading is not as scary as it looks because everyone treats each other’s safety as top priority,” said Loh pragmatically.

Cheer Aces is currently trying to engage with South-East Asian countries to conduct exchange programmes and learn different styles and routines from each other. As for Cheer Aces’ future, they hope to open more cheerleading gyms and get more support from both schools and universities to promote the sport and allow students to express themselves.

Having been there, done that and come back for more, Loh has this to say to aspiring cheerleaders: “Be confident and give it your best shot!”


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