Canada looks for fourth straight cheerleading gold medal
MONTREAL - In Quebec, it's a sport with a respected past, but very few people have a good sense of what modern cheerleading looks like.
On April 26, three Quebecers will be part of Canada's national cheerleading team as it heads to Orlando, Florida to compete for a fourth straight gold medal at the world cheerleading championships.
In Laval, the CheerMotion Jags are helping their cheerleaders get ready for next week's big show.
"We have the Alouettes cheerleaders here, they don't do stunts, and we consider ourselves athletes," said Arisa Khongkham, coach of the CheerMotion Jags. "Not to say that the Alouettes cheerleaders aren't athletes, but they are more like dancers. I respect what they do."
Some team members are looking forward to the event and the large crowd it offers.
"It's a full stadium, even the stairs are full, it isn't just the seats, it is full everywhere," said Francois Moreau, a member of Canada's national cheer team.
"When you are performing a cheer routine, it's really about entertaining the whole crowd and the judges. It's about giving a show and that's what I really like," said Tarek Leguay.
While some got into the sport through gymnastics, others arrived at cheerleading by more direct paths.
"The main reason I started cheerleading was because a girl asked me to do it," said Ali Bazzi.
Everyone on the team has a different role. Some are thrown, some are caught and some are stacked. To help out with these roles, each cheerleader brings a different background to what they do.
"I've done gymnastics before and something that helped me a lot, that isn't really related to cheerleading, is martial arts. It gave me the guts to pull those moves," said Bazzi.
With three gold medals to show their hard work, the girls and guys of Canada's national team look ready to compete.
"Here we make it work because we have the guys throw the girls, they have the muscle to do it, and the girls are flexible, they know how to make it count and they push themselves," said Khongkham. "The team is becoming one."