CHEERLEADING is set to become an Olympic sport.
So give me a ‘W’. Give me a ‘T’.
And, please … give me an ‘F’.
For just when you thought Olympic officialdom could open its arms no wider — having already embraced surfing, skateboarding, even rock climbing for Tokyo 2020 — the IOC yesterday went and bestowed provisional recognition on cheerleaders.
So again: W-T-F.
For yes, yes, yes, we understand, internationally, cheerleading is far more than pompoms, popping cleavage and a pathway to the Miss Universe pageant.
In America alone this year, some 3.5 million participants jumping, flipping, tumbling in a sport whose world championships are covered by ESPN.
Of all “catastrophic” injuries suffered by female athletes in the US annually, more than half belong to cheerleaders — whose long list of trauma includes skull fractures, paralysis, brain injuries, even death.
Indeed, with participants continually looking to push the boundaries of acrobatic excess, this once-tame pursuit now sees concussion account for almost 40 per cent of total injuries.
But still, the Olympics?
And a time when genuine sporting pursuits — think cricket, netball, even squash — are left to watch on, uninvited, from the sidelines.
So forget faster, stronger, higher. How about bustier, bubblier, blonder?
For undoubtedly, this is what the IOC now wants.
Officialdom seemingly fixated on events which — like BMX and beach volleyball previously — will bring new eyes, and younger eyes, to Olympic broadcasts.
Indeed, on the same day it put Jennifer Hawkins in the same club as Usain Bolt, the IOC announced Muay Thai would also receive provisional recognition.
Which is a real coup for fight fans.
Especially those wanting UFC megastars like Conor McGregor to one day compete for Olympic gold.
But what should Joe Public make of this undeniable grab for beauty and violence? And what now constitutes an Olympic sport?
After all, it was only recently that the IOC wanted wrestling gone. A sin equivalent to saying, hey, maybe we just go with four coloured rings.
Elsewhere, professional boxers have been allowed in. Softball thrown out.
And what worth is a golfing gold medal given, in its first Games appearance since 1904, US star Jordan Speith was among 17 top-rankers who brushed Rio?
And now, cheerleading — which needs only survive its three-year provisional recognition period before applying to become part of the Games program.
Oh yeah, they also get $25,000 in IOC funding. That, and access to programs including athlete development and anti-doping.
Yet still, all may not be lost for Aussie sports fans.
Especially after a recent report into the Olympic Games’ future confirmed that, yes, there would be a shift from “sport-based” programs to those which are “event-based”.
Thong throwing anyone?