CHEERLEADERS who have qualified for an international contest have the chance to show they are as “gung-ho” as boys, a coach says.

Kathryn Thompson, co-owner of Black Ice Cheerleading and Gymnastics, praised those heading to the competition at Disneyland Paris for the first time.

Ms Thompson, who lives in Woodford Green, says participants have the chance to show female strength of character through co-operation.

A total of 25 cheerleaders will make their debut in “Take me 2 the Magic” and face teams from across Europe for the crown.

Ms Thompson said: “I’m really excited for them because it will be a fantastic opportunity. It’s a chance to perform what they love and what they do best. We are incredibly proud of how hard they have worked.

“People think the sport is about girls in hot pants shaking pom poms at boys but it’s not about that anymore – it’s turned into an extreme sport.

“It’s about showing what you can do and that gives a lot of confidence to the girls. It’s a unisex sport but it’s about strength in women, that we can be just as gung-ho as teens and young boys.

“The chance for cultural experience and international cooperation is a fantastic opportunity for the girls.”

Black Ice cheerleaders successfully navigated video auditions to make the contest, which will take place in three weeks’ time.

Ms Thompson thinks the competition is a gateway to more prestigious things.

She says: “This will be a springboard into national and international competitions. It’s great for our sport to show the scale of opportunity there is.

“The next step is to go to the nationals with a view to get through the national and European stages to the world championships in Florida.”

Black Ice Cheerleading and Gymnastics has run in Woodford for five years.