HENG WEI ANN email@example.com
Contrary to popular belief, cheerleading is a high-level sport where athletes push their bodies to the limit through a combination of choreographed stunts and gymnastics.
Just look up a video on YouTube to know what it’s all about.
On that note, CHEER just so happens to be the biggest, craziest and loudest cheerleading competition in Malaysia, and it’ll be celebrating its 15th anniversary at CHEER 2014.
When cheerleading first arrived on Malaysian shores, the sport had its detractors.
In fact, its validity as a sport was even called into question.
As cheerleading coach Mike Ng put it: “Because of what they saw on TV, people thought cheerleading was only about scantily dressed girls dancing provocatively.”
The coach of four-time champion Cyrens and their sister team Rayvens added: “There have been many cases where parents did not approve of their children participating – until they saw how hard the kids trained.”
However, the sport’s fortunes have changed in recent years.
Not only are fans thronging the stadium every year for the spectacular CHEER finals, but cheerleading is steadily being integrated into the sports curriculum of schools across the country.
And in recent years, the gender bias from the public towards cheerleading has slowly diminished.
The Co-Ed division of CHEER was introduced in 2011, allowing mixed-gender teams.
The move was a huge leap forward for the sport, with physically stronger male teammates allowing teams to execute more spectacular stunts.
It wasn’t easy for the boys though, with naysayers discriminating and teasing them for their love of a “girly sport”.
Unfazed, the boys and co-ed teams did what they do best and burst onto the scene with unbridled passion.
When it comes to being teased, the boys of current CHEER Co-Ed division champions Mickeymitez have it covered, though.
“People can judge us, but we couldn’t care less what they think. “We just focus on ourselves,” said Goon Weng Kitt.
“We compete and we perform. We have already proven ourselves to the school and our fellow students.”
As fellow Mickeymitez member Aik Jin Wee concisely put it: “Ignore what people say and just do what you love.”
Cheerleading in Malaysia has sure come a long way since the first CHEER final in 2000.
Not only has the skill level of secondary school cheerleading teams increased, but the formation of “All-Star” teams (professional and semi-professional cheerleading organisations) such as Cheer Aspirations and Cheer Aces has raised the bar.
Michelle Kong, a cheerleader from Cheer Aces All-Stars and excaptain of the Warriors from SMK Sri Sentosa, thinks the standard of high school cheerleading can still improve in the coming years.
“In Cheer Aces, we have to work twice as hard and the risks are much higher because the stunts are more complicated.
“The difference between secondary school and all-star cheerleading is the level of experience.
Some stunts are too risky.
Not only do you have to learn the moves, but you also need to acquire the right physique to execute them.”
However, Mickeymitez co-captain Chiam Shiun Jia, disagrees.
“Earlier this year, Mickeymitez became champions in ACIC’s (Asia Cheerleading Invitational Championships) co-ed senior and co-ed open Level 4 categories, beating all-star teams; so I think we’re definitely on the same level.”
Despite their improvements, Malaysian teams are still lagging at international level.
Even as fourtime national champions, Ng recognises that the Sri KL teams need to improve.
“Participating in world championships made us realise that although we are No. 1 in Malaysia, we can barely break the top 10 on the global stage.
“Cheerleading culture starts slightly late in Malaysia”.
Children only learn about it at secondary school level. CHARM (the Cheerleading Association and Register of Malaysia) has a big role to play in trying to make the sport more widespread as well as educating school teachers and parents alike about what it really is.”
At its very core, cheerleading is a sport that promotes teamwork, discipline and sportsmanship. There can’t possibly be anything wrong with that, can there?