Cheerleading gains popularity

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They’ve been an institution in the US for generations, but cheerleaders remain a rare breed in Norway. Now, however, their ranks seem to be growing and cheerleading is emerging as a sport of its own.

The cheer team "Viqueens" of Oslo is ranked as among Norway's best. PHOTO: viqueens.no/Peter Hypher

More than 1,000 active cheerleaders turned up for a weekend cheerleading tournament at the Brunstad Conference Center in Stokke, south of Oslo, earlier this month. Newspaper Aftenposten was on hand to cover the dancing, songs, cheers and acrobatics, and called it all “a spectacular, demanding sport.”

That was good publicity for the local cheerleading association, which claims it constantly has to overcome a “prejudiced” stereotype of cheerleaders as “jumping, overly made-up silicon bombs.”

Pondering a name change
Tone Sparby, secretary general of NAIF (Norges Amerikanske Idretters Forbund), is a former cheerleader herself as head of the cheerleading club “Viqueens” of Oslo. Now she’s working hard to gain more acceptance for cheerleading as a sport in the same family as gymnastics.

“We’re involved in discussions now to change its name, to ‘cheer sport,’ just to get rid of the eternal stigmas attached to our athletes,” she told Aftenposten.

There’s no question that there’s strong interest in the sport, with the ranks of cheerleaders growing at a rate of as much as 30 percent annually. There currently are an estimated 1,600 participants in “cheer sport” in Norway.

Among the current top cheerleaders in Norway is Kine Olsen Vedelden of Viqueens, rated along with NRC Tigers of Lillestrøm as the two best clubs in Norway. She’s the 15-year-old daughter of Egil “Drillo” Olsen, coach of Norway’s national soccer squad, and will compete at the World Championships in Orlando this spring.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

Editor’s note: The writer is herself a former varsity cheerleader (Westmoor High School, Daly City, California, USA) and proud of it.

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