Cheerleading is a sport, get over it

Nottingham Knights
Image caption (Photo courtesy of Jack Gunter Photography)

Chearleading is to get funding from the International Olympic Committee, the first step to it appearing in a future Olympic Games.

You may now be thinking of pom-poms and chants but neither is a big part of the competitive side of cheerleading.

It's a lot more like more group gymnastics - on bucket loads of caffeine.

England's national team coach Tori Rubin says competitors must be "very athletic".

We invited some of Britain's top cheerleaders into the studio to show you some of their moves and talk about the news.

Cheerleading

And she's been telling Newsbeat that treating it as a sport is long overdue.

"It's an incredibly exciting team sport and encompasses so many different disciplines.

"And it's about time that everyone saw how incredible the sport of cheerleading is."

Sideline cheerleaders
Image caption Thing of cheerleading, you think of this? Then you'd be wrong. These are sideline cheerleaders. Also they're not called pom poms

It is exhilarating and physically demanding

"It's two and a half minutes of intense, energised athleticism, so of course it comes with an element of risk," Tori explains.

"I think when people think of cheerleading they often think of sideline cheerleading which is where you have the cheerleaders on the side of sporting activity. They are cheering on the players and helping motivate the crowd."

Tori says that competitive cheerleading is very different.

"It involves tumbling, flipping, the pyramid, dancing, jumping".

Jump

The tumbles are like the floor routine in gymnastics but with lots more people at once

There are stunts which combine to make the "pyramid" which are mostly done in groups of about four people and vary in level.

Unity Black

Standard stunt groups are made up of two bases, a back and a flyer.

It is common to fall during a stunt, but one of the first things you are taught as a flyer is how to fall in the safest way possible.

And then there are the jumps.

Cheerleaders admit they can become obsessive about the way they execute their jumps

The higher the better, with pointed toes, straight legs and chest up is how they are marked.

You're also marked on how well you move between positions, how well the squad keeps in time and the music you pick and there's the dance element too.

Cheesy grins are also important

These are known as facials in the cheerleading world.

Doing a routine is hard and intense but it is important that the whole squad look like they are enjoying it.

So smiles, hair flicking, sassy attitude: it's all key to a high score.

And because the performance tends to be in a large arena competitors must seriously exaggerate everything.

The biggest international competition is held at Disney World

Talk to any obsessive cheerleader and their dreams usually involve attending Worlds.

Worlds is where the best teams in the world (if they can afford it) travel to Florida and compete for the world title in their discipline.

GB would stand a good chance at the Olympics

Team England

Team England came bronze at the world championships in 2016.

And there are more cheerleaders in the UK than you'd expect. There are male competitors too.

"The great thing about competitive cheerleading is that it has levels at one through to six, so you can become an entry-level cheerleader with very little or no experience," says Tori.

"And you can train right through to the highest and most elite level and compete at the world championships."

The new funding is going to the International Cheer Union which covers cheerleading all around the world, so the money won't be going directly to UK clubs.

"When Team England Cheer placed bronze at the World Championships it was a defining moment," she tells Newsbeat.

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Could we see it in the Paralympics too?

Rick Rodgers is "probably" the world's first person to attempt a wheelchair partner stunt. He tells Newsbeat he can definitely see cheerleading making its way into the Paralympics.

"It's so exciting. It's a technical, high-paced sport," he explains.

ParaCheer is a fully inclusive style of cheerleading which sees athletes with disabilities and non-disabled athletes compete together.

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Team England ParaCheer have already performed a showcase at Worlds in 2016.

Team England ParaCheer
Image caption Team England ParaCheer performed at 'Worlds' held in Disney World in May

"We want to start working with the IPC and I am really hoping we will see ParaCheer in the Paralympics in my lifetime - there's definitely space for it," says Rick.

"The world is developing and becoming more inclusive and the sports we see need to do the same."

Rick performing with Team England ParaCheer
Image caption Rick thinks if cheerleading made the Olympics and Paralympics it would be "wonderful"

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