Cheerleader of the Week 2016: Yuka

Meet the Colts Cheerleader Of The Week

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She's in her rookie season as a Colts cheerleader – but for Yuka, this has been a year of many firsts.

She grew up in Tottori, Japan and started doing modern ballet around the age of four. She stuck with it for six years, but ultimately decided it wasn't for her.

She wanted something more active and athletic. She picked up badminton and track and field in high school and ran long distance.

While in college at Kyoto Sangyo University, Yuka saw a performance that changed her life.

"I saw a cheerleading performance for the first time," she says. "I was very impressed with that and I decided to be that."

Highlights from Yuka's 2017 Colts Cheerleaders Swimsuit Calendar Shoot. (Ohio River Cabins - Derby, IN) www.ohiorivercabins.net

Her cheerleading career began in college, where she cheered for sports teams of all kind.

"After I graduated from college, I belonged to an amateur football team as a cheerleader. I belonged for five years. I decided to be an NFL cheerleader when I was a three-year veteran."

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Her inspiration came from a friend and mentor who went to the U.S. to try out for the San Francisco 49ers Cheerleaders and the Dallas Cowboys' hip-hop dance team, Rhythm and Blue.

She didn't make either team, but her experience was enough to open Yuka's eyes to new possibilities.

For three years, she saved money, practiced dance, and worked on her English.

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"In the morning, I did office work. Then I taught cheer to kids. Then at night, I went to a bar as a waitress."

She barely had time to sleep, but she was too busy and too focused anyway. She hired a lawyer to help prepare her Visa paperwork.

"It was very hard for me and everything is English," she says.

All the while, her family had reservations.

"They said, 'You can't do that. You shouldn't do that. We don't know about the U.S.'"

But Yuka didn't let that deter her.

She studied YouTube videos of NFL cheer teams and scrolled their websites and social media pages trying to make her decision. Eventually, she narrowed it down to the Colts and the 49ers.

"When I came to Indianapolis for the prep class, the manager, teammates, everyone was very kind to me. I was very impressed with that. It made me love the Colts more. So, I decided I wanted to be a cheerleader here."

Her next step was making the team. And she knew what she was up against.

"They are very talented people," she says. "I was worried about that."

But so is she. During tryouts, the judges were impressed with Yuka's performance, but also her ambition, drive, and determination.

It all paid off.

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Today, Yuka is in a new country, making new friends, creating a new life for herself and new opportunities for others.

She had enough English to get by – but out of love for her teammates, she decided to really hit the books.

"At first, I didn't understand everything that they were saying. I got sad because I couldn't communicate with everybody. I wanted to make deeper relationships with my teammates, so I studied English very hard."

Her speaking skills improved every day and in a matter of months, she could converse with anybody.

Yuka chased her dream across the world.

Now, she wants to use her position as a cheerleader to help build popularity for the NFL in Japan, a Colts fan base back home, and to inspire other Japanese girls to follow their dreams – no matter how far they take them.

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