Every April, the International Cheer Union (ICU) World Cheerleading Championships are held in Orlando, Florida. Teams from around the globe come to compete in a variety of disciplines and to show their routines to the world.
This year, the Canadian National Team will feature a little more purple and gold as three members of the Golden Hawks Cheerleading squad will look to make their mark on the world stage.
Jordyn Witmeyer, a fifth-year communications student, Meghan Clarke, a second-year psychology student and Emma Heaps, a first-year biology student will join a talented group of athletes from across Canada to compete in this years’ event.
For Witmeyer and Clarke, this is not their first experience competing on the world stage, both making return appearances to the ICU World Cheerleading Championships. Witmeyer was a member of the Canadian national team just last year, with Clarke representing Canada in 2014 and 2015.
“It was honestly such an amazing experience,” said Witmeyer, reflecting on last years’ competition.
“I got to meet and train with girls from all over the country and everyone is there for the same reason. They want to be the best in the country.”
Clarke was also quick to speak highly of her past experiences representing Canada.
“It’s just crazy being able to represent your country for something that you’re so passionate about,” she said.
“It’s really hard on your body, too, because you’re training back-to-back for five days. You just really don’t have much time to rest, but it’s all worth it in the end.”
Founded in 2004, the International Cheer Union is the governing body of cheerleading around the world. According to the ICU website, the organization encompasses 105 National Cheer Member-Nations, representing over 3.5 Million athletes.
Hosted at the Walt Disney World Resort, the ICU also features a number of other competitions throughout the year, including: the World University Cheerleading Cup which features university teams from around the world; the World School Cheerleading Championship, which features individual high school teams; and the World School and Performance Cheer Championships, which feature both school and all-star teams in a variety of age categories.
The ICU World Cheerleading Championships feature seven national cheer teams in the premier competition, including: Canada, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and the United States, who were the gold medal winners at the 2016 World Championships.
Teams competing in the World Championships earn a score based on the execution of tumbling, stunts, pyramids, dismounts and tosses. The team earning the highest combined score in each of these components will be awarded gold.
After a disappointing sixth place finish in 2016, the Canadian team will be looking for redemption with hopes set on a podium finish at this year’s competition.
“I think everyone just has the same mindset and goal,” said Witmeyer.
“We want to work super hard and be the best we can be, just so that we can have a chance at the podium.”
To achieve this success, the national team will conduct two training camps before heading to Orlando in April. Team members from across the country will gather in Ontario, once in March and once in April to prepare the routine.
However, despite these training camps, much of the work is done right up until competition day.
“We arrive the Saturday and we train Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and compete Friday,” said Clarke. “We’re training right up until the day we compete.”
For each Golden Hawk, the opportunity to represent their country on the world stage is well worth the hard work.
Heaps, who will compete for Canada for the first time, is honoured to have the opportunity.
“Team Canada is a really big accomplishment and it’s really exciting to me because it’s something that many athletes in this sport aim to achieve,” she said. “It has been a goal of mine ever since I started cheerleading.”
Clarke, in her third year with the team, echoed this sentiment:
“It’s a great honour,” she said. “A lot of cheerleaders aspire to do this and it’s one of the top things you can do when you’re a cheerleader.”
Witmeyer acknowledged the increased level of competition in making the team this year, making the accomplishment even more special for each athlete.
“The coaches of Team Canada said that it was the largest and strongest turn out for team tryouts that they’ve seen in five years. So that makes it exciting that I made it this year just because there was a larger talent pool coming to the tryout.”
Witmeyer, Clarke, Heaps and the rest of Team Canada, with sights set on the podium, will take to the 2017 ICU World Cheerleading Championships April 26–28 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.