Candice Rawson (bottom, middle) with one of her previous cheerleading clubs. Photo supplied.

New cheerleading gym opens in the Comox Valley

All-star cheerleading is back in the Comox Valley.

A new Valley-based cheerleading gym (Forbidden All Star Cheerleading) opened in January.

It is one of just three all-star cheerleading gyms on Vancouver Island. The others — Island Elite and the Pacific Cheer Empire — are both located in Victoria.

The new gym does not currently have its own building but is booking school gymnasiums to use for classes.

Candice Rawson, the owner of the new gym, says all-star cheerleading is a great sport that combines elements from many other disciplines.

“It’s so different,” she said. “You have your classic dance and gymnastics, but this combines that [and adds] a whole other level.”

All-star cheerleading is different from what is seen at halftime during a sporting event. In all-star competitions, a team of athletes performs a choreographed 2.5-minute routine in front of a panel of judges.

“It’s so unique in that it combines a little bit of everything. Tumbling, dancing, stunting, strength, agility. It’s also about performance,” said Rawson.

“In a competition, you feel like a rock star. The lights, the music, the fans, your team. It’s just amazing.”

Rawson has 13 years of experience in all-star cheerleading as a participant, a coach, and as a judge. She got her start on the now-defunct Mark R. Isfeld Secondary cheer team in Courtenay, before competing with the Island Spirit Sports All-Star club, in Comox.

That club, which was run by Mia Heitland, is no longer in operation.

She later lived in Edmonton, where she said she cheered at some of the best gyms in Canada.

Since opening, the new gym has been running four-week intro classes for people of all ages. According to Rawson, about 40 people have participated in the classes so far.

She said the goal is to ultimately form teams to compete in provincial, national and international cheerleading competitions. The competition season begins in September.

“People are starting to recognize that this is an amazing sport,” she said.

For more information, visit bit.ly/2o7iEbg or email forbiddencheer@gmail.com

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