Former rugby player Toby Brewer is now dancing down the touchline – as a male CHEERLEADER.
The 19-year-old switched sides five years ago when he took part in a school show and found he enjoyed performing.
He signed up with a local cheerleading club in Bristol and became so good he has been chosen to represent the UK at the Cheerleading World Championships in Florida.
Shop assistant Toby is the youngest male athlete to compete in cheerleading at Level 6 – the highest level there is.
He said: “I get it all the time – people asking why I would do cheerleading, they say its all High School girls and pom poms.
“But there’s actually so much more to it than that. You have to be incredibly strong and skilful to be able to complete some of the stunts.
“I practice three times a week and also train at the gym the same amount too. I do weights and also general cardio to improve my stamina.
“I enjoyed playing rugby but it wasn’t something I had a passion for – cheerleading was something I was good at straight away and I immediately loved it.”
Toby, from Fishponds, Bristol, played rugby up until the age of 14 for a local club.
He is now using his strength for different skills including lifting a woman above his head with one hand and being able to hold her above his head while she is doing a handstand.
His new sporting career has been developed with Bristol’s Predator Athletics, a cheerleading club run by head coach Becky Hopton.
She encouraged Toby to try out for the UK’s cheerleading squad and he made it to the 2013-14 national squad of 34 and then the final 24 for the world championships.
Toby added: “Becky really pushed me last season and I went from being unable to do basic partner stunts to being capable of elite stunting in a season.
“It’s my dream to compete cheerleading on the world stage – I can’t quite believe it is going to be a realisation this season.”
Toby says that although the UK is still lagging far behind the US, more and more boys and men are taking up the hobby.
He said: “Once they come and watch it, boys realise that it’s a great team sport.
“There are many men now taking part in cheerleading across the UK, and hopefully many more will get involved.”
Becky said: “We are so excited for Toby to compete internationally.
“It has always been my ambition as a coach to get my athletes to the world championships and we wish him all the best.”