Cheerleading was granted provisional recognition as a sport by the International Olympic Committee this week. “It’s the culmination of my life’s work,”Jeff Webb, president of cheerleading’s newly recognized world governing body, said of the decision, according to the New York Times.
Though cheerleading in the most literal sense — hollerin’ ’bout sports — dates back to the middle of the 19th century, cheerleading as an intensely athletic art form only dates back to the 1980s.
In 1983, ESPN made history by being the first network to air a nationwide broadcast of the National High School Cheerleading Competition, and organizations like the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Advisors, formed in 1987, began to codify the competitive aspect of the sport.
The AACCA was followed in 2003 by the National Council for Spirit Safety and Education; both organizations’ certification programs are recognized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
The International Cheer Union, the world governing body of the sport, was formed in 2004, and currently recognizes 107 federations across divisions like clubs, universities and high schools.
All of which is to say, for a lot of cheerleaders, the IOC’s decision this week was met with a resounding, “Duh.” Modern cheerleading is as intensely athletic as almost any other sport, and (unfortunately) has the injury-rate studies to prove it.
But let’s not focus on the negative: let’s just take a look at some truly awe-inspiring cheerleading routines from the past two years’ international competitions to celebrate this milestone.