By GENEVIEVE THORPE
Monash University will represent Australia at the first annual FISU World University Cheerleading Championship in Poland this October.
Atlas, Monash Cheer’s highest-level team, qualified for the championships as national champions last September.
Coach Stephanie Dawn said the team was looking forward to representing Australia and hoped to put the sport on the map.
“This is the first time cheerleading has been at these games,” Ms Dawn said. “We just want to show that we’re an athletic sport and worthy of the Olympics.”
Atlas team captains Maddie McDonald and Samuel Armstrong said they were excited to compete against some of the top athletes in the world.
“It’s not every day you get to see Team USA compete, or Team Canada,” Ms McDonald said.
“It’s like racing against Usain Bolt … it’s an honour to get to be in the same league as these guys,” Mr Armstrong said.
The co-captains said the team trains three times a week, totalling eight hours of “blood, sweat and tears”.
“I spend more time with these guys than I spend with my family,” Mr Armstrong said.
“These guys have been busting their asses … and it’s going to show when we get there.”
Ms McDonald said a major challenge faced by the teams in the lead up to their departure was funding for the trip.
“Our [program] is run by a volunteer committee at Monash. They put it together for us. We pay our coaches, we pay our uni fees and cheer fees,” she said.
Monash University will contribute a $200 travel insurance bursary to every team member studying this semester.
However, Ms McDonald and some of her teammates finished their studies mid-year and are not eligible for the bursary.
Ms McDonald said she has organised “a lot of fundraising” for her teammates, including movie nights, sausage sizzles and bar events.
“Every little bit helps out,” said Ms McDonald.
Injuries have also been an added pressure for some team members.
Skyler Kah is in his first year of cheerleading and had his first competition just a few weeks ago.
After two training sessions, Mr Kah broke a bone in his hand and his cheer training was put on hold.
“Starting cheer and, all of a sudden, having an injury was quite hard on myself,” he said.
Mr Kah said he is feeling the pressure more than ever now the team is representing Australia.
“It’s a bit more pressure to rock up to trainings, make sure you’re putting in 100 per cent effort because you’ve got the whole country behind you.”
The championship will be held from October 5 to 6, 2018 in Lodz, Poland.
Monash’s hip-hop team (Hercules), pom team (Minerva) and jazz team (Harmonia) will also compete.
FISU, also known as the International University Sports Federation, created the event which will be the first World University Championship to include cheerleading.
The team will post team updates on their Instagram page (@teamaustraliaunicheer). If you would like to support the team’s trip, you can find their Go-Fund-Me page here.