Finland has defended its 2018 world title, winning the gold in the All Girl Premier category of the World Cheerleading Championship on Friday. Team Finland walked away from the 2019 competition in Orlando, Florida with first place, followed by Team USA in second and Team Norway in third place.
"Both Finland and the US had minor mistakes in their programme today, and so the championship was decided by a small margin. Even so, our overall presentation was better and we had a more difficult routine," the team's head coach Maria Wahlroos said.
Last year Finland took home an historic world gold, marking the first time in the competition's history that the US did not win the main category of the event. This year, Team Finland again came out the victor, edging out Team USA by 3.5 points.
"Finland's second consecutive ICU Worlds gold is without a doubt proof that cheerleading is at its best ever in Finland right now. These athletes are not only the world's finest, but they are also very ambitious and have a great capacity for working under pressure," Riikka Taivassalo, chair of the Finnish Cheerleading Federation, said
In addition to their first place standing in the All Girl Premier division, cheerleaders from Finland also placed fifth in the Dance category and sixth in the Coed Premier division.
"The best coaching team in the world"
National team leader Niklas Hagel said Finland's success can be chalked up to great coaches and a strong team spirit.
"Finland's second successive world championship can be attributed to the extremely high level of the athletes' prowess and the world's best coaching team. The International Cheer Union named head coach Maria Wahlroos Coach of the Year while we were here. This shows just how top notch Finnish cheerleading coaching is," Hagel told Yle.
"We've got 32 fantastic athletes in the squad and they work wonderfully together as a team."
Hagel also sent a word of thanks to Finland's cheerleading communities back home.
"We've got incredibly high-quality cheerleading clubs in Finland. The successes of the past few years have seen a real jump in the popularity of the sport, with an over 20 percent increase in participants."