Finland, USA win premier titles at 2019 ICU World Cheerleading Championships

A near perfect routine from Canada falls short in coed division

Finland, all girl, and the United States, coed, grabbed the gold medals in the two premier divisions Friday evening at the 2019 ICU World Cheerleading Championships, hosted at Orlando's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in the Walt Disney World Resort.

Title defense complete

For Finland, it was a back-to-back title win in the all girl division.

"We always want to do something better," said Rosanna Toivonen. "We want to be better than we were last year - not better than anyone else, just us."

But they ended up better than everyone else, finishing ahead of the perennial powerhouse USA and Norway. It was Norway's first time on the podium in the division since 2016.

"We are strong," Toivonen said of her team's performance. "We train smart, not hard."

That smart training paid off as they added intricate elements, including an additional stunt section, from the routine that gave them gold in 2018.

"This year feels even better than last year," she said.

USA retains crown

After a spectacular performance from the Canadian coed team and a win from Finland in the all girl division, USA faced the possibility of a historic first: finishing without a gold medal in either premier event.

But the judges decided they had done enough to avert that crisis, as they finished ahead of Canada, silver, and Chinese Taipei, bronze.

"I was really proud of those pyramids. We spent a lot of time on those and that last one was beautiful," said John Stuart, a seven-year veteran of the USA national team.

Afterward Stuart reflected on the teams ability to coalesce with limited training time together saying, "It's out of this world."

Part of the winning formula that has given USA 10 titles in 11 World Championships, including the last four in a row, is repetition, Stuart said, referencing a hit streak chart the team uses.

"We do a million reps, like 100 plus reps of every skill so that's one of the ways we're able to put some of that stuff together," he said. "It gave us a little bit of competition among the team to see who can get the highest streak, and it also gave us some confidence in ourselves, saying, 'Hey, I hit that stunt 150 times, there's no way it's coming down.'"

For Team Canada, it was a step up from their bronze medal finish in 2018. Their energetic, clean routine ended with members forming a maple leaf in a pyramid.

"That's everything that we needed it to be, everything that I know our country wanted it to be, and everything that we worked for," said Nick Verberg afterward. "It was exactly what it was supposed to be."

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History for Chile

The all girl elite division medal winners represented three different continents: the Americas, Oceania and Europe. Chile won the gold medal, holding off Australia and Slovenia, which finished with the silver and bronze, respectively.

It was the first-ever gold medal for Chile in the event, which took home bronze at last year's event. The country owns a 2017 gold medal - its only other title win at the ICU World Championships - in the coed elite division.

This year's coed elite championship belonged to Colombia, which claimed the coed elite title ahead of second place Ecuador and third place Costa Rica.

The Colombian team erupted as they were announced as world champions. They appeared to be savoring the move up the podium from 2018's silver medal finish, waiting to celebrate until they heard it overhead.

For Ecuador, the silver medal comes after finishing fourth in the division at the last two World Championships. The accomplishment resulting in tears from many team members even before the final results were announced. Costa Rica's bronze medal is its highest finish in the division and first medal. Their previous best was sixth.

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Japan's golden haul

It was a successful day for the Japanese as they picked up gold medals in both the team freestyle pom and team hip hop competitions.

The USA finished second in both competitions, while Mexico grabbed an emotional medal in the freestyle pom division.

The Philippines rounded out the podium in the team hip hop competition.

Earlier in the day, medals were awarded in the freestyle pom and hip hop doubles with Japan again claiming both gold medals. Slovenia took silver in the freestyle poms, followed by Russia. For hip hop doubles, Russia and Ecuador grabbed silver and bronze, respectively, behind Japan.

The USA won the gold medal in the team jazz division ahead of Japan and Mexico.

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