Chinese Taipei Cheering Their Way to The Global Stage
Teamwork and Tenacity Takes Taiwan to The Top
They fight in the name of Chinese Taipei, but for the name of Taiwan.
Teamwork and Tenacity Takes Taiwan to The TopBy Sharon Tseng
In 2015, cheerleaders of Team Chinese Taipei have raised themselves up, both physically and financially, to a gold medal at the World Cheerleading Champions, capturing worldwide attention by beating Team USA. When the anthem was played during the award ceremony, tears finally streamed down the always-smiling faces of the cheerleaders.
Recalling those days, Vice Captain of Chinese Taipei Dragons, Hanyin Wu（吳函茵）, once again shed tears. “Taiwan might be relatively small in population and expansion, but once you really devote yourself into something and strive to become the best, the world will acknowledge you,” she said, emotionally.
Chinese Taipei Dragons have built a reputation in the world of cheerleading by participating in the Coed Premier Event every year since 2010 with a growing record, winning three consecutive bronze medals from 2010 to 2012, a silver medal in 2013 and 2014, and finally a gold medal in 2015, according to Chinese Taipei Cheerleading Association (CTCA). Moving on, they did not rest on their laurel, garnering two silver medals in the next two years.
Fighting in The Name of Chinese Taipei, But For The Name of Taiwan
Like all other athletes on behalf of Chinese Taipei, the ‘Dragons’ are committed to a strong sense of mission: fighting for global attention to their homeland – Taiwan. Though the naming of the ‘national’ representative team involves a controversial issue of politics, the touchy situation of Taiwan in the name of ‘Chinese Taipei’ does not restrain the athletes from shining on the global stage. In fact, it further fueled their motivation to strive for recognition. “The name ‘Chinese Taipei’ might sound complicated, confusing and uncatchy,” said Wu, “but it’s really rewarding to know that the audience, the judges, and all the other cheerleaders actually know where we’re from, and they also know we are good at this, as you can tell from the roaring cheers of the audience when we were on the stage.”
From imitation to innovation, cheerleaders in Taiwan have come a long way to develop their own style of cheerleading. By having their mascot as the ‘Dragons,’ Chinese Taipei has brought an oriental element into the Western sport. “You can tell the prim-and-proper culture from the clean-cut moves of Team Japan, the passionate nature from the fancy pyramids of Team Thailand, and the radiant confidence of Team USA from their impressively steady stunts and tumbling,” said Wu. “We are aiming to mix up the three styles, and bring out our own.”
Image: Hanyin Wu
The Strength of Taiwanese?
“Teamwork and tenacity,” answered Wu, as she recalled the bitter-sweet days she and her teammates had gone through to make it to the global stage. “It was hard," she said, "but that was also exactly what made the fruit even sweeter." Cheerleaders in Taiwan set off a more financially struggling journey compared to many other representative athletes that likewise compete in international tournaments. In spite of requiring an array of dynamic skills and discipline, cheerleading had been dismissed by many since it was not considered a ‘sport’ by the Olympics before 2016.
Without any advanced financial support from the government, they had to either reach out for sponsors and supporters or pay for themselves.
From protective equipments to standard safety mats that may cost a fortune, cheerleaders often had to struggle between insufficient funding and safety concerns. What’s worse, the news of an accident in 2011 that took away the life of a young college cheerleader drew pointed comments and concerns at this activity. From lack of recognition and appreciation of this ‘sport’ to the concerns of its risk of catastrophic injuries, cheerleaders were faced with demoralizing challenges.
Nevertheless, a strong belief that seems to be rooted in the mind of these cheerleaders eventually got them through the dark days –“Passion conquers all,” said Wu. As their love for this sport drove them to fight till the end, now their efforts and perseverance are finally paying off. According to Wu, since 2015, Chinese Taipei has become neck-and-neck competitors with Team USA despite the fact that most cheerleaders in Taiwan don’t have a strong gymnastic background as most cheerleaders in USA do. In 2016, cheerleading was officially designated as a sport by the government after the International Olympic Committee, paving the way for the athletes to a better financial status and hopefully to the future stage of the Olympic Games. However, what moves cheerleaders like Wu the most, was the growing popularity and recognition of this sport among the people in Taiwan. “Now children will drop by and point to us saying, ‘Hey, that’s cheerleading,’ and I’ll feel very proud,” said Wu.
Cheering Their Way to The Global Stage
Last week, cheerleaders in Taiwan, from preschoolers to professionals, have gathered in Taipei Gymnasium to compete for the 2017 National Cheerleading Tournament. During the 13 years since the first National Tournament was held, the number of participating teams and spectators alike has quickly expanded, turning the arena of the Tournament from a college gym to one of Taiwan's biggest Gymnasiums. And perhaps the next stage for those who continue to strive to the top would be the Olympics.
While Cheerleaders are cheering for Taiwan, don't they deserve a cheer from Taiwan?