Former Castlegar resident Connor Labossiere has his sights set on making the roster for Team Canada and competing against the world’s best in the sport of cheerleading during World Championships in Orlando, Florida in 2014.
“A cheerleading routine is a high energy routine that lasts two and a half minutes,” said Labossiere, who was reached by telephone in New Westmister. “The routine consists of standing tumbling, running tumbling, jumps (jumps to standing tucks or standing fulls), high flying basket tosses, partner stunting (two man), and group stunting (which consists of the bases, the top and your third (back spot), gravity defying pyramids and a dance.”
The Worlds are held at the sprawling ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World and spread out over four days.
Labossiere has been involved in gymnastics — a natural stepping stone to the disciplined, athletic moves found in today’s competitive cheerleading environment — from the age of four when he first started bouncing around in Kindergym. From there, he joined the Selkirk Challengers Gymnastics Club, which at the time was operated out of the Robson Hall. He later become a coach at the club as it grew and moved to Robson Elementary and then to its present home at the old middle school in Kinnaird.
Now a 22-year-old Simon Fraser University student, Labossiere is working as a server to pay the bills and is nearing completion of a criminology degree.
“I’ve kind of retired from gymnastics in the last few months, as I had a torn hamstring… and it was getting a little expensive once my parents had stopped paying for it,” laughed Labossiere. “Having to come up with $400 per month for training was a little too much to be spending with rent and cheerleading on top of that.’
Labossiere competed at the Worlds in 2011 as part of the Abbotsford Valley Stars and this year as a member of the Vancouver All Stars. He said he hopes to make the Canadian Team for 2014; if not, he’ll still be representing Canada as part of the Vancouver All Stars, who compete out of Port Coquitlam.
“You try out in September and get your routine ready and by April, if you want a bid to Worlds, then you’ll go as a team. But if you’re competing for Team Canada, you have to send in a video of you doing the different skills that are required. Then a committee goes through thousands of the videos and chooses the best people that they believe would represent Canada well,” he said.
Competition fees are steep to get to the Worlds but there is a “Road to Worlds” program which provides venues around the province where teams compete for bids to get to the World Championships. Some of the bids do come with a small amount of compensation but the vast majority of the money needed to get to the Worlds comes from the athletes.
“It’s an expensive competition, but it’s so worth it,” said Labossiere. “It’s amazing.”
On May 31 of this year, the ICU (International Cheer Union) became the 109th member of the SportAccord, the umbrella organization for both Olympic and non-Olympic international sports federations as well as organizers of international sporting events. With 103 Member international federations, representing about 3.5 million athletes, membership in the organization was a big stepping stone for the sport.
“The ICU is our way of showing the world we are capable of competing in the Olympics,” said Labossiere.
He added that some people have a negative perception of cheerleading and that people have told him it looks so easy anyone can do it.
“Yeah, okay… you go and do a roundoff, back handspring, two and a half twists from the floor… just whip that out.”
If injuries are a way of measuring what is and what is not a sport, cheerleading certainly makes the grade.
“I’ve had numerous broken toes and fingers, a ruptured disc in my back and a skull injury when I hit my head on the high bar,” said Labossiere. “I still have an indent in my head but whatever, it’s what you do. I took a couple months off and went back into it.”
The Stanley Humphries graduate hopes to get back to the Kootenays when time allows and looks forward to paying a visit to the Selkirk Challengers Gymnastics Club where it all began.
Before then, he’s looking forward to hearing, sometime in February, that he has made the cut for Team Canada. Canucks have taken home gold five straight years at the competition.
“We hope to make it six in a row,” he said.