LOS ANGELES — As the 2020 Tokyo Olympics wind down, many athletes are already looking to the future.
The International Olympic Committee recently voted in favor of granting full recognition to the International Cheer Union and cheerleading.
In effect, the ICU is eligible to apply to be included in the Olympics program. It’s a decision cheerleaders like 15-year-old Isabella O’Flaherty are excited about. Isabella is part of West Coast Rush, the longest-running cheerleading program in the San Fernando Valley.
Isabella has been in the program since she was 10 years old and has been part of several competitions.
"It’s something different," she said. "It’s not like a regular sport. We’re not throwing a ball in the air. We’re throwing people."
Isabella added that she’s used to people questioning whether cheerleading is a sport.
"I feel like they don’t really know about All Star Cheerleading," she said. "They only really see school cheerleading, which is a lot different than what we’re doing here."
Carlos Onofre started cheering in high school and opened West Coast Rush 17 years ago with his wife, Jennifer. He is one of the coaches responsible for their numerous championship titles and was excited to hear that the IOC officially ruled cheerleading a sport, opening the door for it to potentially be included in the Olympics.
“Once it takes the Olympic stage, they would see that our athletes are true athletes and what we do, day in and day out, inside the gym,” he said.
Onofre is hoping the exposure could lead to more interest in the sport.
"I think it’s going to change cheerleading in a very positive way for more athletes to be interested in cheerleading."