By Laura Fenton
All U of M alumnae Nichole Rollins and her teammates wanted to do was to take a picture
with the Olympic rings as a backdrop in London. But, as the cheerleading squad formed
human pyramids and tossed members 20 feet into the air, the pose caught the attention
of 300 spectators in Olympic Park who were amazed by the cheerleading stunts of the
16 Americans. She and her teammates went on to do a 30-minute impromptu performance.
“That was the coolest day,” said Rollins (BSEd ’07), who cheered at Memphis from 2003
to 2007 and who is a 10-year instructor and administrator for the Memphis-based cheerleading
Rollins and 15 other veteran Varsity cheerleading instructors and representatives
from across the United States traveled to the London Olympic games this past summer
to perform at sporting events. This was a first-time trip to London for Rollins.
“I never thought cheerleading would take me to the Olympics,” Rollins said. “It was
less pressure – but way more fun – than competing because these people are just excited
to see you do something. The simplest stuff we did were the parts they loved the most.”
U of M alumnae Nichole Rollins (fourth from left) traveled with 15 other veteran Varsity
cheerleading instructors and representatives from around the U.S. to perform at the
London Olympic Games.
Plans didn’t work out as expected for the group when all but one of its performances
were cancelled for the men’s basketball tournament, but they still were front and
center stage for the Olympic handball competition.
When the team walked onto the court for the first time in front of the 12,000 handball
fans, the crowd quickly became ecstatic during the four-minute routine that had team
members flying through the air during the stunts.
“Many countries are not exposed to cheerleading,” said Josh McCurdy, director of curriculum
for Varsity and coach for the Olympic trip.
Rollins noted that producers of the handball competition said it was the “coolest
thing they’d ever seen” because many of the handball fans weren’t familiar with American
“It’s not just sideline pom-poms, rah-rahs and kicks,” McCurdy said. “It’s very athletic.
The girls and guys have got to be in excellent shape because it combines all aspects
of tumbling, stunting and weight lifting, a lot of aspects that people aren’t aware
Between moments of competition, Rollins and her teammates would join the hundreds
of people picnicking in Olympic Park who were watching live events on a giant screen
The halftime performance at the men’s gold medal basketball game was canceled because
the UK rap artist accompanying them “didn’t want to wear something they wanted him
to wear, so he bailed and they pulled our performance,” Rollins said.
That frustration didn’t last long.
“I know that a lot of people say the Olympics is the one time that the world comes
together, and it kind of is,” Rollins said. “In the atmosphere of it, you realize
that a lot more. People from all different countries were opening doors for each other
and saying ‘hey’ to each other. Even if you couldn’t communicate, there was still
the fact that everyone was there for the same reason — to cheer on the athletes. It’s
like everyone is best friends.”
If Varsity is given the chance to participate in another Olympic Games, they’ll probably
“We were lucky to fall into this opportunity,” McCurdy said. “By all means, if Rio
calls and wants cheerleaders from Varsity, I’m sure we would jump on the opportunity
to go and do it again.”