By PHYLLIS HO
The young cheerleaders of Team Malaysia did our country proud at the inaugural 2012 International Cheer Union (ICU) Asia Cheerleading Championships in Tokyo, Japan two weeks ago.
The team returned with bronze medals in the Premier Co-ed and Partner Stunt categories, despite competing in a field that included strong contenders from Japan, South Korea, Russia and Ukraine.
The Partner Stunt team of Kong Dickson and Tan Kai Ling, both 21, said the competition was more of a learning experience for the team, and that winning the medals was just a bonus.
“We competed with a lot of high-skilled competitors, and even learned some new skills from them. Mostly we just went there and told ourselves to do our best without expecting too much,” said Kong, who got into cheerleading thanks to his sister.
Ever since his sister convinced him to give cheerleading a chance, Kong has fallen in love with the sport, especially because of the unique challenges it presents and also the thrill of being able to wow an audience with every routine.
The Partner Stunt discipline, for instance, requires incredible athleticism and coordination between the two cheerleaders to pull off some of their seemingly gravity-defying stunts.
Kong and Tan train two or three days a week, up to two hours each session. On top of that, Kong is still a student and part-time cheerleading coach, while Tan is a full-time gymnastics coach. “We need a lot of time and chemistry to be able to work together as partners,” said Kong.
For Team Malaysia coach Clint Johnson, competing in the tournament was important because it gave the team the belief that they could compete with the continent’s best.
“This was our first competition at this level and we proved we can be competitive – both to ourselves and the other countries in Asia,” said the American, who has also judged R.AGE’s Cheer competitions for the last two years.
Now that they’ve proven that, the next step for Team Malaysia would be to compete at the World Championships, which will happen next year in Florida, US.
“Right now we’re trying to get sponsors because it’s very expensive to travel there. The cost is around RM10,000 per person, so it’s a huge amount for both of us,” shared Kong.
Tan added: “Because he’s still studying, and I’ve only just started working, it’s going to be hard for us to fork out so much money on our own.”
Whether they make it there or not, Tan said the experience of just being part of Team Malaysia, especially in a team sport like cheerleading, has already been amazing.
“I like the sport because it’s fun. We’re not doing it alone, but in a big group. That’s where you get to make lots of friends.”