While HOME RUN DERBY faithfully covered the cheerleading experience during the Padres/Dodgers visit to Beijing, we are proud to declare this is not an isolated event in China. The MAIL & GUARDIAN dutifully reports the growth in cheerleading in China and the effort to have cheerleaders at Olympic events.
The Chinese Basketball Association introduced China to cheerleading when it mimicked its American counterpart and replaced its amateur gymnastics with the type of cheerleaders NBA fans have come to know well. The practice has spread across numerous sports in China, but the people have not embraced the ladies or their work yet.
The pictures here come from Li Qi, the costume manager for the Soojin Dance troupe. As she puts it, “I don’t know if it’s because of Chinese people’s personalities or maybe because basketball culture isn’t so ingrained that they’re still scared to let loose.”
The troupe has to hustle for every gig, taking everything from basketball games to handball tournaments to company anniversary celebrations. Li Qi also works immensely hard at the outfits you see here to compete with Western cheerleading ideals.
Most of the dancers squeeze in practices and games around full-time jobs, making their routines a bit rough around the edges. Still, they slip into their outfits a few hours before game time for women’s basketball games and practice in an empty gym without lights or music and little appreciation just for the love of cheerleading.
Li speaks for the troupe when she states quite plainly, “We basically all have jobs and do this part-time. So you can’t expect a lot, all we can do is try our best.”
Perhaps the Beijing Olympic Committee will find the notion of cheerleaders a bit too gauche for the staid image of the Olympics, but one can’t help but notice the same drive and determination in the Olympic athletes themselves. Hopefully, the Committee will do the same and consider the plea for Olympic cheerleaders seriously.