The hit 2000 movie Bring It On, among several other films and TV shows over the past two decades, has brought audiences inside the highly charged world of competitive cheerleading. And make no mistake, it is athletic, energetic and competitive, with the University of Victoria Vikes cheer squad the best at it in the world.
The 20-member Vikes team won the Premier Female Team Division at the International Cheer Union’s University World Cheer Championships this month at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, with a perfect routine and no points deducted.
It was a story three years in the making, interrupted, like much of sport, by the pandemic. The Vikes, undefeated in B.C. since 2017, qualified in 2019 for the worlds in 2020 but had to wait until this year until the world championships were resurrected. They had to re-qualify, which they did by again winning the provincial crown last March.
“This win is a compilation of many, many years in the making, plus a team full of athletes who are willing to put in the work to bring it home,” UVic head coach Kate Bell said in a statement.
The Vikes cheer team has enlivened many a basketball game in CARSA gymnasium. They are listed as a UVic club but their sheer athleticism rivals that of any of the varsity athletes they cheer on.
The International Olympic committee is now rotating sports based on local interest and has recently added cheerleading as a recognized sport along with field lacrosse, flag football, kick-boxing, sambo and muaythai.
With strong bases of support in the U.S., the best chance for Olympic inclusion for cheerleading, lacrosse and flag football are for the 2028 Los Angeles Games, with the decision to be made this year, and cricket a strong possibility for the 2032 Brisbane Olympics.
With cheerleading’s IOC bona fides established, as with any highly competitive athletes, the Vikes did not go to their world championships just to make up the numbers.
“In the past, when we attended, our goal was just to put out a strong run and gain exposure to the sport we love,” said Bell, who has guided the UVic squad for more than a decade.
“This season, we knew we had grown the program enough to be in a place where we would be strong contenders. This was so exciting for us. The team this year is extremely special and very talented. They are adaptable and determined.”
The world championship title was especially meaningful for hometown Victoria product and third-year Vikes cheerleader Selena Krishna.
“Our goal was to perform a routine that we felt proud of and knew we put our hearts and souls into,” Krishna said in a statement.
“The feeling of performing at this competition was indescribable. There was a mix of overwhelming excitement and nerves, knowing that we were stepping onto the world’s floor to represent our university and Canada. We could not be prouder to represent the University of Victoria and our country alongside several extremely talented Canadian teams.”
And who knows? Maybe one day they could be representing Canada at the Olympics.