By LARRY VAUGHT
For Kentucky senior cheerleader Kelsey LaCroix, there was no better experience than being part of the Winter Olympics in South Korea.
“There is no better honor than to represent the United States and cheerleading at the Olympics,” said LaCroix. “Cheerleading has been such a big part of my life. It was awesome to get to show everyone what we are made of and show the world what our sport is all about.”
LaCroix was part of three national championship cheer squads at Kentucky and capped her career with the 11-day trip with the UK cheer squad to the Olympics.
“Our performance before the closing ceremony was my favorite,” she said. “After the closing ceremony, a lot of the athletes were on the floor and we got to meet gold medalists. That’s the most involved we were with the actual athletes.
“We tried to experience Korea and all it had to offer. We performed anywhere and everywhere. Sometimes it was on little mats over concrete. Sometimes it was in the rain, snow and cold. We tried to show everyone that was there for the Olympics what cheerleading was all about but also people in the middle of shopping centers what we were about.
“Toward the end we had an exhibition festival where we kind of competed with the other cheerleading teams. We performed in front of a lot of people then. Judges were there for the other teams. But we performed at least once a day, if not twice. We were driving everywhere.”
They stayed about 1 1/2 hours from the Olympic Village where the athletes were because they performed at venues closer to the hotel. They mainly watched the Olympics on TV but did get to see warmups for speed skating in person as well as the closing ceremony.
“We had a lot of the traditional Korean food. One night we were at a festival where they had a huge fire and you would write a wish on a pice of paper, throw it in the fire and then it would come true,” LaCroix said. “That was really a cool experience. We got to see some museums. It was just cool to experience so many things.
“My favorite part, though, was just seeing all the different people. I didn’t even know some of the names of the athletes but if they had a gold medal, I knew they had to be cool. But it was good to see they were just normal people like us.”