By LIM MAY LEE
CHEER fans, get ready to have your minds blown by some serious cheerleading skills because CHEER 2016 is here and the cheerleaders are ready to rock the mat!
Cheerleaders across the country have been training hard for the 2016 CHEER Finals, the biggest event on the Malaysian cheerleading calendar.
The Finals this year will be the 17th edition of the annual competition, and it will be held at a brand new arena – Tropicana City Mall, Petaling Jaya.
Also, it’s a one-day event (previous Finals were two-day affairs), so the teams will have to go big or go home. There will be no do-overs or second chances – it’s all or nothing.
“Based on what we’ve seen at the CHARM Cheerleading Championship (C3, which usually takes place before CHEER), the competition will be stiffer this year,” said Cassandra Yang, 16, captain of defending champions Cyrens.
“Also, there are a few weeks between C3 and CHEER this year, so the other teams will have a chance to step up their game and do even better.”
The pressure is on for the Cyrens from SM Sri Kuala Lumpur. They’ve won six All-Girls titles in a row at CHEER, and new captain Yang, who has been cheering for six years now, has some pretty big shoes to fill – not that she’s fazed by the task at all.
“I’ve received a lot of help from the former captain, Genevieve Liew, and I understand my responsibilities,” she said, adding that her team trains four times a week.
“The entire team is feeling the heat now, but we’re trying our best to just focus on perfecting every aspect of the routine.”
The Calyx All-Girls from SMJK Katholik, first runners-up at CHEER 2015, are determined to push the Cyrens all the way.
“We hit a perfect routine at C3, and I think we should be able to do the same at CHEER,” said captain Lee Wen Yi, 17, confidently.
Despite CHEER happening right between two school exams, the Calyx girls train twice a week, working diligently to balance their studies and cheerleading.
“I think we have a great chance of winning as long as we execute our routine flawlessly,” she said.
The pressure of competition can get to anyone, she added, but the team plans to avoid that by encouraging each other and maintaining a positive team spirit.
With teams like Cyrens and Calyx blowing up the mat with their explosive energy and spectacular routines, it’s clear that the sport has progressed in leaps and bounds since the first CHEER competition 17 years ago.
“The quality of cheerleading has definitely improved over the years,” said Beverly Hon, president of the Cheerleading Association and Register of Malaysia (CHARM). “We’re now using a standardised system, which allows cheerleaders to improve from one level to another.”
Hon added that Calyx and Cyrens are the teams to look out for, with Xtreme from Sri KDU the dark horses – if they can maintain the form they’ve shown so far.
Hon gave the teams one last piece of advice before CHEER: “Your team’s level of mastery depends on the athletes,” she said. “Master one level before proceeding to the next, because you’re always only as strong as the weakest member.”
Admission to all CHEER events are free, so if you want to experience what Malaysian cheerleading is all about, then make sure you drop by on Aug 27 at Tropicana City Mall. For more info, head to fb.com.my/thestarCHEER.