The World Championships are full of proud parents, evidenced by the hugs and wiping away of tears… and the beer carts around every corner at ESPN—spectating is stressful, y’all! But for some athletes, having your family come to Worlds to support you is a rare thing. For international athletes, having just one parent to make eye contact with as you set on the floor is an honor. When it can cost $1800 for a flight, and another few hundred dollars for accommodation to fly in early to deal with jet lag, the price to watch your kid fulfill their dreams is just beyond their budgets.
For Sam on Unity Allstars Ruby from the UK, and her mom Felicity back in Australia, this was going to be their reality. FaceTime, virtual hugs and WhatsApp were the only things keeping them connected, oceans apart.
Sam isn’t new to being away from family. She cheered with CheerSport Grey Reef Sharks last season and moved to the UK right after Worlds 2017. It’s hard dealing the intense emotional rollercoaster that is all-star cheerleading, even harder when your family is in another hemisphere and opposite timezones. Still, Sam had competed in elite gymnastics since she was little, and after starting cheer in 2010, she competed on Team Australia in 2012 and 2013, and Australian Dream Girls from 2012-2016. She’s not new to the pressure of high-level competition. But still, sometimes, we all need our mom. And this year, for the first time, Felicity wasn’t going to be at Worlds.
On Monday afternoon EST, Sam called Felicity. It was 2:30 on Tuesday morning back home, but Felicity’s spidey-senses woke her up and took the call. Although Sam assured her everything was ok, a mom just knows. Within the hour, Felicity had laid out a plan to get to Worlds and surprise her kid. No one else knew except Sam’s dad Frank, and her Unity Allstars coach, Dave.
Tickets from Australia to the USA aren’t cheap, but luck had Felicity’s back. She found a $1300 return flight from Melbourne leaving in two days, but finding a last minute domestic connection from Brisbane was driving the costs up. So, she did what any sane mom does—she got in her car and made a 19 hour drive to Melbourne. Stopping only to see family in Sydney and continuing straight on to Melbourne, the only thought keeping her going was that she was going to make it to see Sam on the Worlds floor no matter what. Add on a 21 hour flight from Melbourne to Orlando, and you kinda get how insane this journey is getting.
Meanwhile, back in Orlando, Dave was trying to keep this secret from Sam. A notoriously bad secret keeper, Dave’s solution was to ignore her, avoid her and try to stay as far away from her as possible in the two days it took for Felicity to get there. Imagine you’re in the final lead up to Worlds, and suddenly your coach goes cold. Sam was falling apart, no mom, she couldn’t figure out why Dave wasn’t speaking to her, she was far away from both her homes in the UK and Australia… this was the worst Worlds, like, EVER.
And then this happened:
Sam’s team, Unity Allstars Ruby, competed in the IAG 5 division and made finals. And her mom was there cheering her on.