CHEERLEADING is a lot more than simply dancing with pompoms – so says competitive Leamington cheerer Rachel Edwards.
The 21 year-old has a decade of somersaults, cartwheels and scorpions under her belt and had her sights set on two world titles in the same week
She was joined by her best friend 18 year-old Darcy Riman from Whitnash who has also been cheering for ten years.
The pair competed with Team England at the weekend in the International Cheerleading Union (ICU) with the team being awarded bronze – their first medal as a team.
And they competed with cheer squad Coventry Dynamite’s ‘Lady Grenades’ at the United States All Star Federation (USASF) championships.
Just five teams from the UK qualified for the competition and three made it into the finals – Coventry Dynamite placed 8th out of the 48 finalists.
Former North Leamington School pupil, Rachel said: “Competitive cheerleading is a tough, physical sport – think gymnastics, there are stunts, tumbles, jumps, and overall style to blend together.
“I’ve always done competitive sport from a young age, and cheerleading is as tough as any I’ve done. It has certainly given me a high level of fitness, not to mention confidence and self-belief.”
Rachel, who studies sport and exercise science at the University of Worcester, flew out to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida with the help of a £400 scholarship grant from the university.
There is no sponsorship support or funding within cheerleading meaning competitors have to pay for flights, accommodation, their kit and the tournament entry fees themselves. Rachel said without the scholarship support this opportunity would not have been possible.
Cheerleading coordinator at North Leamington School Karen Woldanski said: “Rachel was one of the original ‘Leam Gems’, which started as an extra-curricular club in 2006. She went on to represent the school in National Competitions and was a member of the team awarded first place in the UKCA National Schools Championships.
“She soon became a coach and outside of school joined a highly successful local cheerleading club which is where she developed her skills further.
“It’s wonderful to see that Rachel remains as committed to cheerleading as she was with all school sport during her time at North Leam. The school is very proud of all that Rachel has achieved and wishes her all the best with future competitions.”
Darcy attended Campion School and now works as a sales assistant at H&M in Leamington who have been very accommodating of her cheerleading commitments.