A cheerleader with cerebral palsy helped lead her squad to a first-place victory in competition, inspiring others to follow their dreams.
Debbie Threlfo is a member of the Oxygen All Stars Lithium cheer squad in Newcastle, Australia.
She has cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair and is a fierce competitor in the Special Ability division of the Australian All Star Cheerleading Federation.
In 2016, a video of Threlfo performing with her teammates during competition went viral.
She was 26 at the time and found herself thrust into the spotlight as an ambassador for people worldwide who have special abilities.
In an interview with Australia’s “Today,” Threlfo explained that she’d secretly been wanting to join a cheer squad, but wasn’t sure if she could make the team.
Threlfo was excited to learn about the special ability division of the AASCF and scheduled a try-out with the coaches.
The rest is history, as Threlfo earned herself a spot on the team and was soon training with a coach and new teammates on a weekly basis.
In 2016, Threlfo’s team won the title of Special Ability Champions, shining a spotlight on just how capable people with special abilities can be.
“The inclusion of the Special Ability division within our competitions gives athletes with special needs the opportunity to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and determination, experience joy and success, and participate in the social aspects of friendship and teamwork in a safe and encouraging environment,” AASCF’s executive director Stephen James told ABC News.
James told the Daily Mail that team members find competing within high-standard guidelines to be very satisfying.
“Our Special Ability teams love the fact that they are included with their cheer and dance community and treated no differently than anyone else as it is not an ‘exhibition’ nor showcase,” James said.
“But they are judged according to very strict rules and guidelines the same as all teams.”
Threlfo plans to continue cheering as long as she can, and wants others to know that they, too, can follow their dreams.
“If you’ve got a disability nothing is impossible,” she said. “There’s only ability if you believe in yourself.”
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