UK cheer has a big opportunity to expand its sport


The Kentucky Wildcat and Kentucky cheerleaders create a pyramid during the game against Fort Wayne on Wednesday, November 22, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 86-67. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Chris Leach

The biggest stage in all of sports is arguably the Olympics, as fans of all sports from around the globe tune in to watch their country compete against the world’s best. 

With so many people watching, it’s easy for a sport to gain more followers after the Olympics, especially a less well-known sport like cheerleading. Kentucky’s cheer team will attempt to put cheerleading on the map when they represent Team USA at the upcoming Winter Olympics.

“I’m really excited because it’s going to lead to a lot of new opportunities for the rest of the cheer organization,” senior cheerleader Kelsey LaCroix said.

Kentucky’s 22-time national champion cheer team was selected to represent Team USA for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The cheerleaders will get to share the spotlight with some of the world’s greatest winter sport athletes, such as snowboarder Shaun White and alpine skier Lindsey Vonn. 

Being on such a big stage will give Kentucky’s cheerleaders many big opportunities, one of which is representing the USA. Being able to represent their country excites the cheerleaders, but they’re more excited to represent their sport that’s hardly ever noticed. 

“I feel like a lot of people don’t respect it (cheerleading) the way that cheerleaders do, so people are going to be more involved in the sport,” LaCroix said. “I think that this is definitely the start of something big because we’ve been looking forward to this for a long time, trying to get more recognized in the industry and stuff.”

One of LaCroix’s teammates, senior Spencer Clan, shares a similar viewpoint.

“It’s a great opportunity and we get to help be the stepping stones to make it a world-wide thing,” Clan said.

Kentucky’s cheerleaders will get to perform at the festivals and ceremonies relating to the Winter Olympics, as well as compete in a cheer championship against other countries. This will be the first time Kentucky’s cheerleaders have experienced something like this, as it’s not often that collegiate cheerleaders are chosen to represent Team USA at the Olympics.

However, being at Kentucky with such a rich cheer history has helped prepare the Cats for the big stage, as well as help put cheerleading on the map already. 

“I do think that Kentucky cheerleading has been very helpful in that process of actually getting cheerleading to be recognized as a sport,” LaCroix said.

The stage at the Winter Olympics, however, will likely be bigger than any national competition the Cats have competed on yet. That’ll give them a big chance of showcasing what cheerleading is about in a country that isn’t necessarily familiar with cheerleading. 

They’ll also get the unique experience of getting to be at the Olympics firsthand, which not every athlete can say they’ve done.

“The Olympics is something that not many people get to experience, I think there’s like 500-600 athletes, I’m not exactly sure,” “Out of the three million cheerleaders in the U.S., we’ll be the 16-20 that get to do that and that’s a huge honor.”

They will also get to experience a country that not many people get to see as well. Even though they’ll be close to North Korea, one of head coach Jomo Thompson’s good friend’s is from South Korea, and has assured him that he and his team will be safe.

“When you hear Korea, you think of North Korea, so you start thinking, ‘Oh, we’re going to be right next to North Korea and Kim Jong Un,’” Clan said. “That’s kind of like in the back of my mind, but I get an opportunity that we’re very excited for.”

With such a big opportunity, the Cats have a lot to look forward to, but representing their passion is at the top. With some good performances and the worldwide spotlight, Kentucky cheer could be a driving force in getting cheerleading more popular.

“Getting this opportunity to kind of showcase that (cheerleading) in Korea, with the Winter Olympics, I just think it’s awesome,” Thompson said.