Trending: The other team GB
They've been training hard and now the Olympic cheerleaders are having their moment in the floodlights. Emily Jupp, who knows how to wave a pom-pom, reports
It seems that it's not just the official sports that are causing a stir in the Olympic Park and beyond this year. A constant, frolicking stream of cheerleaders has been soaking up the limelight, too. At the beach volleyball event, they performed dressed as 1950s beach babes with bikinis and beach balls and they've also been spotted performing flamboyant stunts in central London and by the Team GB clubhouse. Cheerleaders – male and female – have also been entertaining the crowds watching the indoor volleyball matches at Earls Court.
There are more than 100 countries that cheerlead, and 65 competed in the International Cheer Union (ICU) World Championships this year. "There is a group of American cheerleaders heading over on 5 August to cheer for the men's basketball semi-finals and finals," says Sheila Noone, who runs public relations at the ICU and Varsity, which are both international bodies that support cheerleading.
The official Team GB cheerleaders are made up of the 30 adult members of North London Wildcats. "They do everything from acrobatics to pom-pom dances," says Leah Walsh, the brand manager of the British Olympic Association, who says they will be performing around London over the next few weeks, appearing at The Mall and Covent Garden.
In the Olympic venues, you'll be treated to feats of physical accomplishment by the Ascension Eagles, based near Gallions Reach, south-east London. They've won more than 250 trophies and compete and regularly win at an international level. The British Cheerleading Association's company secretary, Collin Johnson, says cheerleading squads will be popping up at handball, basketball, volleyball and football matches over the next week.
If that's still not enough good cheer for you, check out Kristi Castlin, a former cheerleader who's now a track-and-field Olympian for the US, and the Team GB male gymnasts, who I'm told have more than one cheerleader among their number. And before you make any judgements, there is a very proud history of hot, buff, male cheerleading out there, and also, George W Bush used to be one.
SportAccord, a group of international sports federations, has just provisionally recognised cheerleading as a sport in its own right. So come 2016, we might be seeing rather a lot more of these sprightly athletes, and not just on the sidelines.
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