Stories by VIVIENNE WONG
TEAM Malaysia aren’t the only ones flying the flag for Malaysian cheerleading. Local semi-professional teams compete at international tournaments quite frequently these days, and just a few weeks back, Team EMAS (Extreme Malaysia All Stars) won big at the Asia Cheerleading Invitational Championships (ACIC) in Singapore.
EMAS’ senior and open teams secured first place in the cheer pom division of their respective age categories (senior teams are for cheerleaders aged 13-18, and open teams are for those aged 18-30), showing just how far Malaysian cheerleading has advanced as a sport.
“Things are very different now compared to what cheerleading was back in 2000. The routines are much more difficult than before, and that makes the competition much harder,” said captain of the open team Ahmad Assraf Muhamad Nasir, 26.
Including EMAS, there are now six All Star teams (professional cheerleading teams) in Malaysia, and according to Assraf, there’s a huge level of respect and support among the teams.
Team EMAS competed at the Asia Cheerleading Invitational Championships (ACIC) for the first time.
Despite the support from their fellow cheerleaders, ACIC wasn’t an easy ride for the EMAS athletes.
According to Alya Natasha Rosli, 18, captain of EMAS’ senior team, the training period of two months was too short for them to prepare.
“Both senior and open teams faced problems. We didn’t have enough team members, and the choreography wasn’t finished until two weeks before ACIC, so there was a lot of pressure,” said Alya.
Three girls from the senior team also had to double up and compete for the open team as well, as they didn’t have enough cheerleaders to make a full team. That added a lot of pressure on the girls as they had to learn two different routines, said Assraf.
But all the hard work paid off after it was announced that the two teams had won in their respective divisions. And victory was much sweeter for the open team as they defeated two-time champions Crazy Dragon from Thailand.
“When Crazy Dragon was performing, we didn’t even dare watch because we were so afraid it would make us lose focus. And when our open team walked onto the mat, we could only hear claps from around 10 people. But we didn’t let that affect us, we performed with all our hearts and with full confidence,” said Assraf.
Jude Benjamin Lisa, 30, who founded Team EMAS in 2006, is now looking forward to the team’s upcoming competitions in Thailand and Australia later this year.
“Malaysian cheerleading has developed tremendously over the past few years, and participating in overseas tournaments really helps because you compete with the best in the region,” said Jude. “The only setback with going overseas is funding and sponsorship. Cheerleading is not exactly a widely-recognised sport.”
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