Physical Address

304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124

B-Girl Sunny Choi Overcame Depression to Make History in New Olympic Sport

No two paths to the Olympics are ever the same, but something feels especially unique about Sunny Choi’s journey. A former competitive gymnast, an Ivy League graduate, and an executive at Estée Lauder, the 35-year-old Choi is now one of the inaugural athletes competing in breaking, also known as breakdancing, at the 2024 Olympics.

Choi discovered breaking in college, and she emphasizes the sport’s profound impact on her life. “Breaking has been the catalyst for so much of my personal growth,” she tells SheKnows. However, it took years for her to trust in herself and her talent enough to pursue it full-time. It wasn’t until 2022, after Choi finished second at the World Games, that she took the leap.

While transitioning from a corporate job to a breakdancing career wasn’t easy, it was clearly the right move. “When I was working in corporate, you’re rewarded for showing up and being a robot, not having emotions, just working,” Choi reflects. Breaking, she says, is the opposite. “As a breaker, it’s all about self-expression. It’s about being you and figuring out who that person is, both on and off the floor, because this is an art. It’s a dance.”

Choi appreciates that breaking requires her to tap into her truest, deepest self, a luxury her previous life didn’t allow. From her childhood to her corporate job, Choi recalls struggling with mental health while pushing herself towards conventional success.

“I was in every AP class in high school,” Choi recalls. “I was a high-performing gymnast. I got into an Ivy League school and went to Wharton. I didn’t even want to study business, but I knew it would make me financially stable.” Looking back, she sees a pattern of suppressing personal desires to check off society’s success benchmarks. “I was just trekking forward, shoving things aside, putting on a happy face, and showing up to work every single day.”

This relentless pace took its toll, leading to cycles of burnout and depression. Choi started therapy, which gave her the vocabulary to express her struggles for the first time. “Growing up in a conservative immigrant household, we didn’t talk about mental health, so I didn’t know how to talk about it,” she says. “I didn’t even know it was something you were supposed to talk about.”

The topic of mental health is less taboo now, but not all communities are completely open about it. For Choi, mental health is now a priority. In addition to therapy, she resets by going on no-phone walks with her dog and boyfriend and taking 10-second “micro breaks” throughout the day. Hot vinyasa yoga is also a useful tool for calming her mind. “It’s a really good hour where I’m just sweating my existence out, so you can’t really think,” she says.

Another mental health tool is cooking, especially sweet treats. Choi recently partnered with the Incredible Egg to share a recipe for one of her favorites, frozen custard, as part of the brand’s upcoming “Meant to Be Broken” campaign, which she feels resonates with her own non-linear journey. “It’s about making mistakes and not seeing them as failures but as lessons and opportunities,” she says.

The fear of failure was perhaps the main hurdle that kept Choi from embracing breaking earlier. “Finally choosing myself and what would make me happy has been the theme of my journey to the Olympics,” she says. “Really digging deep to figure out what was stopping me and getting over that.”

Now, Choi is heading to Paris, fully appreciative of everything it took to get here. Whether or not she brings home a medal, she says, “In my eyes, there’s no way I can fail at the Games.”

Source: SheKnows