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Big Break


Breaking will make its debut debut a first public appearance (noun) BTS made its debut in 2013. as an Olympic sport in August. The competition will take place at the largest public square in Paris, France. It’s completely sold out. But when breaker Sunny Choi tells strangers she’ll be competing at the Olympics, they laugh.

It can be hard to convince people that breaking, or breakdancing, deserves to be an Olympic sport. “I just have to hope that you see it one day,” Choi tells TIME, at a coffee shop in Queens, New York. That’s where she’s lived and danced for more than a decade.

HOME BASE Queens Community House, in Forest Hills, New York, is a “legendary practice spot,” Choi says.


Breaking is a judged event, like gymnastics and figure skating. No one says those aren’t sports. And since breakers battle head-to-head, there’s no point system. Whoever moves better goes to the next round.

“There’s no doubt in my mind this is a sport,” says Choi, whose first name is actually Sun. Her parents nicknamed her Sunny, and she kept it for her B-girl stage name. “Dance, art, sport,” she says. “All together.”

Sunny's Road

Choi’s mother and father moved to the United States from South Korea. They raised their kids to work hard. Choi became a competitive gymnast. “I remember her doing cartwheels in diapers,” her brother Jin says.

GYMNAST DAYS Choi (front row center) poses with her gymnastics team, in Kentucky, around 2000.


One night, during her freshman year at college, Choi saw members of a breaking club dancing on a campus walkway. They persuaded her to come to a class. Choi’s gymnastics background gave her an advantage advantage something that helps a person succeed (noun) Because Kelly started young, she has an advantage in chess club. . After graduating business school, she began a career as a cosmetics executive. But on the side, she kept breaking, and even took part in international competitions.

Breaking was added to the Paris Olympics program in 2020. In late 2021, Choi attended a camp for the top U.S. breakers, where a coach asked aspiring Olympians to raise their hands. Everyone’s hand went up except Choi’s. Working full-time as an executive while training to make the Olympic team seemed impossible. “It was a really hard decision,” she says.

SEEING DOUBLE Choi sees herself on a Los Angeles billboard while on the Team U.S.A. Road to Paris bus tour, in 2023.


After finishing second at the World Games in July 2022, Choi left her job, and in 2023, she qualified for Paris by winning the Pan American Games (see “Winning Moment”). “I’m so much happier,” Choi says. “I feel lighter. I have more energy for the things I want to do.”

Paris Prep

Thirty-two breakers (16 B-boys and 16 B-girls) will participate in Paris. Choi is seen as a top contender. “She’s got the high-scale aerial power moves,” says Mary Fogarty, an associate professor of dance at York University, in Toronto, Canada. “Sunny is someone who has enough material to go all the way through.”

IT’S SHOWTIME Choi shows off her skills at the Breaking for Gold U.S.A. competition in Brooklyn, New York, on April 22, 2023.


Choi struggles with self-doubt. Before the Games, she’ll meet with a sports psychologist to work on her mindset. She’ll lift weights with a strength coach and keep her diet healthy to ensure peak performance.

Choi is confident about one thing: If you give breaking a chance, you won’t be disappointed. “You feel our energy,” she says. “You feel the excitement, you feel the happiness or the anger or whatever emotion that the dancer is expressing in that moment. It’s so visceral visceral felt with the gut; strongly felt (adjective) Tim has a visceral hatred for Brussels sprouts. and raw. I don’t think you get that anywhere else.”

Winning Moment


At the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, in November 2023, Choi front-flipped in the air, shuffled her feet, and spun to the ground. Then she flashed a peace sign at her opponent, B-girl Luma, of Colombia. It was as if Choi was saying, “This is mine.”

The judges agreed. The crowd cheered, and her team piled on top of her, when Choi was declared the winner. “What’s so cool about breaking is you get to be authentically you,” she says.