Western Canada’s most talented cheerleaders compete at Imagine Championships in Calgary
More than 1,500 athletes got louder than ever this weekend, showcasing their best handsprings, aerials, and choreography at the 2023 Imagine Cheer and Dance Championships in Calgary.
The event, held at WinSport Canada Olympic Park, invited competitors from age four all the way up to 55.
One hundred and seventeen teams from Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan participated.
The top nine teams will go on to compete in the Varsity Summit Championships and the top team wins a prize of $5,000.
“It takes a lot of passion, which is something that myself and the cheerleading community certainly has, and it takes a really great group of gym owners to grow the sport to come together at a competition like this,” said event organizer, Samantha Paradee.
2023 Imagine Cheer and Dance Championships in Calgary
“This sport is everything you've been looking for. Whether you're male or female, it is born out of sportsmanship and every single one of us believes in that and all the cheerleaders are constantly cheering on the cheerleaders. It's an unreal experience.”
Cheerleading is an international sport featuring elements of dance, acrobatics, gymnastics, and physical strength.
For 12-year-old Rory Shak who competes out of Peak Elite Cheerleading in Lethbridge, the competition was a chance to perform with her team and share her skills with others.
“It’s so much fun mostly just to meet other people who have trained longer than me and in this competitive world I’ve met so many really great cheerleaders,” she said.
“I hope that one day I can be a professional cheerleader.”
Others like 13-year-old Rhyen Hubich from Fusion Nitro Cheerleading in Medicine Hat share that same passion.
She took the stage as a solo performer and loves the thrill of competing in front of a large crowd.
“It's nerve-wracking but so exciting at the same time,” said Hubich.
“I just want to hit zero. I want no deductions and I want to win, but it means a lot to perform for everyone because you do it for them and you smile for them.”
Cheer and Dance championships, Win Sport, Calgary, Sat. Feb.4, 2023
The sport isn’t just for females though, it’s been expanding and some of the most talented young male performers are competing at the highest level.
Joseph Fagan started doing school cheer when he was in Grade 7. The now 17-year-old high school student at Ross Sheppard High School in Edmonton has continued his love for the sport all these years later.
“It's a super rewarding community that you make with your team and it’s something that I would have never experienced in any other sport,” he said.
“It’s just an extremely exciting thing to do.”
The Imagine Cheer and Dance Competition continues on Sunday with doors opening at 8:20 a.m. at the Markin MacPhail Centre. Tickets can be purchased in person for $17.50 and parking is free.
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