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Teenage cheer stars head to the US to compete in global championships

L-R: Ruby, Amelia and Libby

Three cheerleading sensations from the south Wales valleys are looking forward to heading stateside this month to compete in a duo of world-renowned cheer tournaments.

Coleg y Cymoedd learners Ruby Holifield (16), Amelia James (17), and Libby Andrews (18) are set to represent Wales at two major cheerleading contests in Orlando at the end of April.

The girls will be playing for their country at the International Cheer Union (ICU) Junior World Cheerleading Championships on 24th – 26th April before competing at club level at the International All Star Federation (IASF) competition on 27th – 29th April.

One of the biggest events in the cheerleading calendar, the ICU tournament sees national teams of 15–18-year-olds from over 25 countries compete against each other for the coveted title of global champions. Over 40 young women competed in trial outs for a position on the Wales team with just 20 selected to represent their country.

For the IASF competition, Ruby, Amelia and Libby will compete with their club, RSD Legends, and will take on 24 teams from Canada, Australia and England.

Libby, from Pontypridd, is no stranger to cheer, having been part of the RSD team for 10 years and having previously taken part in the ICU championships in 2022 where Wales came first.

As someone who has been involved in the sport for a decade, Libby is part of the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) at Coleg y Cymoedd – a programme funded by national sport governing bodies designed to help athletes aged 16-plus find a happy medium between their education and sporting development. As part of the scheme, Coleg y Cymoedd, which is the only college in Wales to have the TASS accreditation, offers various initiatives and extra support to athletes studying at its campuses including flexibility around deadlines, exams and lessons to ensure they do not clash with sporting activities.

Libby said: “I initially got into cheer after following in the footsteps of my sister who first gave it a go. It looked like so much fun and from the moment I first tried it, I loved it. I haven’t looked back since. I have previously taken part in the world championships with team Wales, which was an incredible experience, but that hasn’t made me any less nervous for this year’s competition.

“We’ve been working hard to be at the top of our game as a team and I cannot wait to take part again. I’m also excited for my other team mates to be involved, especially those experiencing it for the first time as it’s an incredible opportunity and something they will remember forever.

“Keeping up with my studies while I’ve been training and preparing for the competitions hasn’t been easy, but Cymoedd has been really supportive,especially leading up to us needing to miss two weeks of education while we are out in Florida. I’m lucky to part of the TASS programme at college which really has made a difference by helping to ensure exams and work don’t clash with the competition or training.”

Also part of the TASS scheme is Amelia, from Pontypridd. Amelia, who is studying a mix of sport and psychology A levels at college, has been cheerleading for six years following five years of gymnastics.

Amelia said: “I really love cheerleading. I was initially a gymnast but saw some people cheerleading at my gym and wanted to try something new and challenging. I’ve taken part in a lot of competitions over the years.

My biggest accomplishment was when I went to compete for team Wales in 2022 and became a world champion – that was an incredible feeling and something I dream of repeating again.

“The two competitions we are going to take part in are going to be tough as we’ll be competing against top teams from all over the world – the best of the best – but it’s amazing to be considered among them. Obviously winning would be amazing but our aim as a team is to get through to the final 10.

“I’m currently in the middle of studying for my A levels and balancing this with cheer can be hard at times with there being so much training, but I try to set aside time for revision to make sure I’m keeping up with my studies while also doing everything I need to do for cheer. My tutors have also been great at helping me, making sure I have all the revision material I need and ensuring any deadlines that are up when I’m in Florida are completed and sorted before I go out. It’s meant I can give cheer my full attention for the tournaments.”

For Ruby, taking part in the world championships is a brand-new experience. A former gymnast of nine years, Caerphilly-born Ruby saw cheer as the next step for her sporting career after wanting to be involved in a more team-orientated sport, leading to her joining RSD three years ago.

Currently studying a level 3 art and design course at college, Ruby, who has a love for painting, drawing and designing things, is hoping to pursue a job in the creative industry but plans to continue cheerleading while she follows her career ambitions.

She said: “I have been doing cheer for three years now and this will be my first time at the worlds. I am extremely nervous about the upcoming competition, but I know it’s going to be a once in a lifetime experience. The Wales team is formed each year specifically for the competition so I’m most looking forward to being all together in Florida and enjoying our last time as a team together. Hopefully it will just be start of my experience competing in the world championships.”