Alan Hubbard

When I read recently that England are the undisputed world champions at cheerleading, an activity that is seeking Olympic status (tell me one that isn’t) my immediate thought was that those ultra-jingoist upschoolers in the BBC and Sky commentary boxes, notably when covering athletics, winter sports and boxing, might be getting a crack at the podium themselves.

But no. Instead it is the pulchritudinous chorus line of high-kicking baton-twirlers and pom-pom wavers who believe their art is sport.

England's all-girl junior cheerleading squad won gold in the advanced division at the International Cheerleading Union World Championships in Orlando, Florida last week. The team, aged between 12 and 16, topped the podium having overcome tough competition from Japan and Austria, who took silver and bronze, respectively.

And last year at the same venue which happens to be Walt Disney World (honest, I have tried to refrain from mentioning Mickey Mouse), England's co-ed (men and women) elite squad became senior world champions.

Cheerleading can apply to become an Olympic sport having been granted provisional Olympic status by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) three years ago.

It means it could make its Olympic debut at the Paris 2024 or Los Angeles 2028 Games. And with the United States, ancestral home of the baton and pom-pom, the latter is more likely to see the girls and guys giving us a twirl.

However, practitioners claim it is actually some way removed from the cheerleading associated with those exuberant half -time performances at American football or basketball matches, which are already creeping into football and basketball over here.

Teams of up to 35 athletes in both mixed and all-girl divisions are judged on stunts, pyramids, tumbles, jumps and dance moves during an exhilarating two-and-a-half-minute routine.

The judging system is similar to that of diving, synchronised swimming and gymnastics.

But where does it all end?

Skateboarding, surfing, sport climbing, karate and baseball/softball have already been confirmed for Tokyo 2020.

Cheerleading can apply to become an Olympic sport ©Getty Images
Cheerleading can apply to become an Olympic sport ©Getty Images

The IOC says it hopes the "innovative" move will draw in new audiences by focusing on youth-oriented sports.

The five extra sports, which do not replace any of the 28 already on the Tokyo schedule, will include 18 events and involve hundreds of athletes.

Baseball and softball featured separately between 1992 and 2008, but made a joint bid to be readmitted.

Dozens of other activities have been sniffing around the Olympic platform for years, among them snooker, darts, dominoes, angling, chess, bridge, Scrabble, water skiing, arm-wrestling, ballroom dancing, bog snorkelling, paragliding and ballroom dancing.

Indeed, just about every muscle or brain-flexing activity practised by man or woman has jostled to climb aboard the Olympic Games bandwagon including, would you believe, sheep-shearing.

Cheerleading authorities insist this is not what we see on our screens when scantily-clad lasses sex up the Superbowl shouting "give me an A" and waving pom-poms. They claim all-star cheerleading is one of the most high-risk, adrenaline-inducing sports around.

The argument being, that it is no more absurd a sporting concept than synchronised swimming, rhythmic gymnastics, beach volleyball and dressage. Or, dare I say it, ice dancing

Cheerleaders worldwide have been arguing with sceptics like me for years about its credibility mainly about its status as a sport.

They say if you were to look up the dictionary definition of "sport", it ticks every box.

"An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment."

Okay. But surely in that case cheerleading in this form is something more suited to Britain’s Got Talent with similar routines to Ashley Banjo’s show-stopping group, Diversity.

My granddaughter, aged 21, happens to be a dancer and has performed in musical shows and pantomimes. But her talent, technique and agility is surely equivalent to at least that of any cheerleader.

So should she and her fellow chorus-liners be considered future Olympians? Who knows with the IOC these days? Maybe one day we will see dance routines from Aladdin, Mother Goose and Cinderella competing with each other for Olympic gold?

Diversity won the third series of Britain's Got Talent a decade ago ©Getty Images
Diversity won the third series of Britain's Got Talent a decade ago ©Getty Images

Yet another leg show like rhythmic gymnastics and beach volleyball to put a glint in the rheumy eyes of the IOC old boys' brigade.

True, cheerleading is growing in popularity: ”It has a strong youth focus and we noted that," IOC sports director Kit McConnell said.

The ICU has more than 100 national federations.

Good for them. But as I have opined here before, it is ridiculous that a popular sport like squash apparently is not regarded as sufficiently Olympian and has consistently been squeezed out of the Games, eliminated for Tokyo alongside wushu (no, that is not a panto character in Aladdin) and 10-pin bowling (skittles for grown-ups).

Once more it was given the squash equivalent of tennis elbow.

Sport climbing? I have said perhaps rather unkindly that this is more usually something kids do on walls in leisure centres while their mums are having a flat white and slice of carrot cake in the cafe.

But if climbing up walls is now considered an Olympic pursuit then why not abseiling down them?

I recently watched a TV piece on the sport of paddleboarding in which participants are propelled by a swimming motion using their arms while lying, kneeling or standing on a type of surfboard on rivers or in the ocean.

In another version, the paddler stands up using an oar.

And yes, paddleboarding has applied for Olympic status. No doubt punting will follow.

As for angling, who is to say that before long the IOC will fall hook, line and sinker?

In fact, I have predicted that by the middle of this century, the Olympics could even be a Games of two halves, one featuring the core traditional sports such as track and field, swimming, boxing and gymnastics, the other an assortment of the rest and current wannabes.

And I bet you there will also be an Olympic Grand Prix for Formula One staged somewhere like Ulaanbaatar.

With decorative cheerleaders waving their pom-poms and twirling their batons in high-decibel encouragement during the pit stops.