A Saskatchewan cheer team made history by becoming world champions.
The Regina-based Rebels Cheerleading Athletics (RCA) Smoke team won the International Open Level Five division at Cheerleading Worlds in Orlando, Fla. on Monday, beating 26 other teams in the division.
It’s the first time a Saskatchewan team has won gold at Cheerleading Worlds, a tournament that attracts more than 9,000 cheerleaders from 40 countries, according to its website.
Eric Bestvater, Smoke head coach and owner of RCA, said it was a lifelong dream come true.
“It was very surreal,” he told CBC Radio. The morning edition.
“It’s the pinnacle of our sport, and to have a team able to come out and compete and win the gold medal was amazing.”
He said the team had its fair share of challenges ahead of the tournament.
Like many other athletes and teams, in-person training has become more complicated due to the pandemic. Bestvater said at one point they could only have so many athletes in the facility at one time, which meant the team couldn’t train together.
On top of that, Bestvater said they have injuries to deal with.
Still, he said those challenges weren’t enough to deter the team.
“We had a lot that we had to overcome, and through it all they really came together as a group,” he said.
“They’re like my second family. They really bonded and then kept pushing and pushing and were able to get here and do what they did.”
Morning Edition – Saskatchewan5:53Saskatchewan. cheer team wins the world championship for the very first time
Venice Mitchell, 15, and Cassandra Moyer, 16, are team members and have each been with RCA for more than five years.
“It’s never easy to get to this point. Every team has their struggles, but the bond we’ve created has been very helpful in helping us overcome any challenges that have come our way,” Mitchell said. .
“In the end, we came together and we pulled it off, so I couldn’t be prouder of my teammates.”
Moyer had a similar sentiment, saying she feels “really proud of our whole team because we really got together and worked hard and really achieved something really amazing together.”
“We’re like family. That’s like the best way to describe it.”
Bestvater said unity was a major factor in the team’s success.
He said this group is “probably the closest team I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with. They support each other in unique ways.”
“This year they really supported each other and really worked together as a unit, and I think that’s what gave us the edge we needed.”
Bring recognition to the sport
All three said they wanted the championship win to bring more recognition and appreciation to the sport of cheerleading.
“I feel like Joy doesn’t really get the recognition it deserves,” Moyer said.
Not only does she want cheerleaders to get more respect, but she also wants other young people to have the chance to “find the sport and fall in love with it, just like me.”
Mitchel, meanwhile, said she hopes the historic victory will help shed light on how cheerleading can bring people together.
“Maybe we can get more people to experience what cheerleading is really about and make other friendships along the way.”
In keeping with the theme of unity, Bestvater also said he hopes the championship will bring more visibility to cheerleading and the relationships it creates.
“It’s just such an amazing sport and a sport where these athletes – men and women – form a really strong bond with each other,” he said.
“It really is the team sport of all team sports, in my opinion.”