A Calgary cheerleading group says the sport is finally get the recognition it deserves as a regional competition gets underway this weekend.
Jodi Poirier, who started Calgary Stars Gymnastics & Cheerleading Centre about 15 years ago, says the fact that cheerleading was recently recognized by the International Olympic Committee is a big deal.
"It is a fabulous step for us," Poirier told The Homestretch on Friday.
"We are being recognized as a sport which in some cases, we haven't been. It opens up a whole other world for us, a whole other opportunity."
Battle of Champions starts Saturday
One of those opportunities is a two-day competition in Calgary that starts Saturday. The Pacific All-Star Championship Battle of Champions is expected to draw hundreds of competitors and fans.
"It's a great opportunity to see what the sport of cheerleading is all about," Poirier said.
"Our club itself usually travels to competitions so this is a great opportunity for our friends and family to come out to see what the teams can do and see all these kids' hard work."
Poirier's 13-year-old daughter Faith found her love for the sport about six years ago.
'I don't just want to go, I want to win it'
"When I was little, I would always watch cheerleading because my mom was a coach. I would always watch it and be like, 'I want to do that.' When I got old enough I tried out for the team and I made it," Faith said.
And she's playing for keeps.
"I want to make it to worlds, which is like our Olympics. That is like every cheerleader's goal in their cheer career. I don't just want to go, I want to win it."
Faith trains five days a week for two hours at a time.
"I feel really good about it," she said.
"Now cheerleaders can go to the Olympics, well, almost."
Open to all
Jodi says it's a lot of work, but it comes with rewards.
"It is extremely athletic. These kids condition, they stretch. They give up an awful lot in their life as well as the families do. We ask them to commit to a full year so it is their focus other than school."
It's also open to everyone, she says.
"I coach a group of young athletes from ages eight to 11 and we have four boys on our team. They are power houses, we need them. It is pretty incredible to see a sport that allows the two genders to come together and work as a team," Jodi said.
She says her group has grown a lot since it began.
"We started 15 years ago, about that, with six athletes, four of them were sisters and we are now well over 200 athletes."
The Battle of Champions gets underway Saturday.
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With files from The Homestretch