‘Filipino athletes give everything they have’

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The all-girls team of the UP Pep Squad during its dry run. —NICO NICDAO

Before leaving the country on Nov. 8 to compete at the 9th Cheerleading World Championships (CWC) on Nov. 11 and 12 in Takasaki, Japan, the members of Team Pilipinas Cheer and Dance gave a preview of their act in an exhibition held at Rizal Memorial Sports Complex. The audience watched in awe as teams displayed their hair-raising stunts and passionate cheers.

The San Beda Alabang Midgets cheerleading squad with coach Ajjie Mendelebar during their first
day in Japan

The event showcased performances from various groups: San Beda College Alabang (SBCA) for Junior Team Cheer; St. Scholastica’s College Manila for Junior Cheerdance and Junior Cheerdance Doubles; University of the Philippines (UP) for the All-Female Team Cheer, All-Female Small Groups and Mixed Small groups; and other schools for the rest of the cheer dance categories.

Positive attitude

Cynthia Carrion, president of the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines, said the Filipino athletes’ positive attitude is what sets them apart from the rest. It’s also key to their winning performances. “Always have a smiling, cheering attitude,” she advised the team members as she wished them good luck.

Ajjie Mendelebar, coach of the SBCA athletes, pointed out that on top of their good attitude, “Filipinos are absolutely resilient. We value hard work and perseverance more than anything. And we know that we can go against anyone for as long as we put our hearts and minds into whatever endeavor.”

Added UP Pep Squad member Annika Gozo: “Filipino athletes don’t show up to get everything they want. They show up to give everything they have.”

Members of the UP Pep Squad en route to Japan —GERLADINE MADAMBA

Team Pilipinas Cheer and Dance knew that they qualified for the CWC as early as July. Members prepared immediately by studying their routines and realigning their training program.

“We train every day for about six hours, practicing proper technique and artistic creativity with the guidance of our coaches,” said Gozo.

It helped that the coaches from the different schools knew each other, having worked with and competed in various events. Training their athletes for a common goal—winning gold for the country—made their job more fulfilling.

Training for a competition of this scale was not without challenges, foremost of which was handling pressure. “You’re representing not just the Philippines but also every Filipino cheerleader who dreams big,” said Mendelebar.

“When it comes to being a student athlete, time is of the essence,” said Gozo. “Balancing our workload at school, plus training for both CWC and UAAP CDC (University Athletic Association of the Philippines Cheer Dance Competition) requires a tremendous amount of discipline and dedication.”

The St. Scholastica Scions —NICO NICDAO

Ultimately, facing challenges together brings people closer. “We know more about each other every day, which allows us to trust in ourselves and each other,” said Mendelebar. “I also got to build a strong foundation with parents who believe in our program.”

For Gozo, the best part was seeing the progress in their hard work and developing a camaraderie among her teammates that strengthened with every obstacle they overcame.

She said, “It all boils down to one question: How badly do you want it? Grit can take you places. Strive to be better than who you were yesterday, because one of the best feelings is putting your mind and body through something you never thought you could overcome. With passion and grit, nothing can stop you.”


A well-appointed hotel suite in the sky