WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) Is cheerleading a sport? That question has remained unanswered, but the wait is finally over. The International Olympic Committee has granted full recognition to the International Cheer Union. This step allows cheerleading to be eligible to apply be included in future games.  

We took a step closer to see how this progress could influences the sport and athletes here in West Virginia. 

Cheerleading has evolved over the years. From the sidelines to international competition, this activity now requires its athletes to be in peak physical condition.

Athletes work to perfect a variety of skills such as tumbling, stunting, and jumping and incorporate each into their routines. Olivia Charlton, senior varsity cheerleader for Wheeling Park High School, says it is not easy and that it takes teamwork and dedication to be successful.  

We condition a lot. You have to be very in shape, cardio you must be able to run you have to do everything. We do a lot of stunting, and you must be able to lift people in the air and that takes a lot of strength.

Olivia Charlton, Wheeling Park High School Varsity Cheerleader

Many stereotypes around cheerleading have pushed back the progress of gaining respect and acknowledgment of the sport.  

The Wheeling Park Cheerleading coach Shawna Shepherd says that her team puts in just as much work and effort, if not more than other sporting teams. She says she hopes this news will educate those who are not aware of all that they do.  

I think it’s going to give kids a lot more opportunity to see what cheerleading really is. I think a lot of the time cheerleading is seen as sideline cheerleading.

We are 9 months out of the year and most sports are 2-3 months, so these kids are in the gym 6 days a week. There really is not much of an off season so they put in a ton of work and there is a lot of expectation on them.

Shawna Shepherd, Wheeling Park High School Varsity Cheerleading Coach

You can expect to see changes within the sport at all levels since the IOC made this approval.  

I think that will kind of give little girls and boys you know the inspiration to be like, I want to be a cheerleader someday.

Shawna Shepherd, Wheeling Park High School Varsity Cheerleading Coach

Shepherd says that some school team’s athletic department do not claim cheerleading as a sport. Due to the recent recognition from the IOC we may start to see that change.