The following is a guest post by Nance Larsen, a Special Olympics Communications Team volunteer at the 2015 World Games.
Special Olympics athlete Nicholas Ensminger tumbles with joy – literally! The 20-year-old athlete is a base and spotter on the Notre Dame school of Dallas cheer squad. One of two male cheerleaders on the team, the position is not only physically demanding, requiring strength, dexterity, endurance and aerobic capacity, but also helps develop motor and social skills, as well as leadership abilities. This self-improving sport encourages athletes to continually evolve their skills.
Encouraged by his sister – one of his five siblings, Nicholas has been cheering with the squad for seven years, carefully learning precise moves in group routines and mastering difficult tumbling passes that include cartwheels, somersaults, round-offs and walking on his hands – a particular specialty that requires concentration, balance and practice.
The world saw Nicholas showcase his skills during the Opening Ceremonies of the 2015 World Summer Games where he tumbled along the red carpet and stage with stilt walkers and other performers as part of the globally televised event. During the Games, Nicholas will cheer at several competition venues with his squad including gymnastics, judo and basketball, a sport where many new friends met while at the games are competing including several from Germany, Holland and Canada.
His signature moves make him a crowd favorite wherever the team travels and he has gathered quite a fan club. But, it isn’t just the tumbling and dance moves that makes Nicholas’ performances special, it is Nicholas himself. He simply radiates enthusiasm and flashes an infectious grin that is contagious and impossible to resist. When cheering, Nicholas is jubilant and he absolutely electrifies the crowd, they can feel the fun. From his head to his toes, Nicholas is a bundle of joyful energy
Nicholas has been preparing for competition at the 2015 World Summer games for several months, practicing two days a week for 2 hours per day with his team and also attending a cheer camp. He has also been preparing for a rather unique audition. In early August, Nicholas has an audition to perform in front of casting directors for Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey’s Circus with the hope of being selected as a guest clown when the Circus travels to town. Nicholas has created a unique routine to perform for the judges that includes a little bit of everything from dance moves and gymnastics to juggling and classic clown material. A lifelong dream to perform with Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, Nicholas wants to make people smile and finds the antics of clowns in the circus irresistible – kind of like Nicholas himself.