Sergio Garcia’s Olympics dream didn’t begin on a track, in a gym or atop a bike.
Instead, as a teen, he took to the colorful streets of Miami without much more than a buddy and some wicked gymnastic dance moves.
After four hours of break dancing, the young b-boy usually walked away with a couple hundred dollars in his pocket.
Now, he’s thinking of a bigger prize.
“I truly believe that I’m going to be the first one to take the first gold medal,” Mr. Garcia said.
The International Olympic Committee took steps last week to add Garcia’s sport, break dancing, to the 2024 Paris Summer Games — and the 20-year-old Miami dancer wants to represent America in France.
He’s already won four national titles from the Competitive Breakin’ League and is generally considered one of the emerging sport’s top competitors.
“I knew that it would get to that level,” Mr. Garcia said. “What we do is very athletic. It takes a lot of athleticism to pull off the moves that we do, so for me, it was just a matter of time.”
It’s not the first time there’s been a push to introduce an eccentric sport to the Olympic stage. Others have rallied behind synchronized skating, squash, ultimate frisbee and even chess, but the IOC sees “breaking” — as the sport is known in professional circles — as a way to appeal to a younger demographic.
Breaking, skateboarding, surfing and sport climbing were provisionally added to the the Paris Summer Games in 2024 after a recent IOC vote.
Skateboarding, surfing and sport climbing are already set to be part of next summer’s games in Tokyo, after which the IOC is expected to make a final decision on whether to go forward with adding the new events for Paris.
“The four sports that Paris has proposed are all totally in line with Olympic Agenda 2020 because they contribute to making the programme more gender balanced and more urban, and offer the opportunity to connect with the younger generation,” committee President Thomas Bach said in a press release.
Veteran break dancer Antonio Castillo, who founded the national Competitive Breakin’ League, knows about connecting with up-and-coming athletes.
Mr. Castillo, 37, owns a studio in the District where he teaches break dancers, some as young as three.
“It’s accessible to everybody,” Mr. Castillo said. “You don’t need anything except your shoes — and some people can even do it without shoes.”
Mr. Castillo started the Competitive Breakin’ League in 2014 to bring some competitive order to the sport. He said the league’s events draw about 1,000 athletes annually from across the country.
“Even before the Olympics, we were already doing something similar to that in America,” Mr. Castillo said. “We’ve seen these kids go from little kids to teenagers and then now with the Olympics, they’re trained that way.”
His studio, called “The Lab,” is home to about 700 students. The dance gym has expanded seven times since its beginnings in 2012.
Mr. Castillo said he has 8-year-olds who already have their sights set on the Olympics, practicing on their own in the morning, and again at night.
“You become a sport in the sense that not only are you doing the dance, now you’re training at home on your own as a kid the same way that a swimmer would swim before school,” he said.
Mr. Castillo has been breaking for 24 years. He came upon the studio space while he was on a run in 2011. It was a perfect retreat where he could practice his moves alone. At the time he didn’t think he was creating a business.
“I just quit my job,” Castillo said. “I didn’t have any money at all. I’m quitting because there’s nothing else I wanted to do with myself.”
When he danced in his private studio, the music escaped the little room and seeped into the streets. The loud tunes drew interest in his sport. When neighbors asked if he taught, he just said yes, and The Lab was born a year later.
He met the Miami-based Garcia at a competition and developed a friendship.
“[Garcia] comes here all the time,” Castillo said. “Even to my students, he’s the master. He’s the champion of what they want to be.”
Garcia first started breaking after watching a 2004 dance dramedy called “You Got Served,” while he was hanging out with friends.
“We just glued and connected to the movie,” Garcia said. “We were like ‘Hey man, we feel we can do this’ and we started doing it, and the rest is history.'”
For Garcia, an Olympic gold medal would prove that his dreams are attainable.
“It’s only impossible until somebody does it,” he said. “That’s really what im about. I’ll be able to put my family in a different position financially. It would change the life of a young kid who came up struggling with his family.”
Mr. Castillo, who “just had a feeling” that the sport would reach the international platform, said that the Olympics can unlock the sport’s potential.
“Behind this street stigma, there’s a beautiful sport that just hadn’t had an opportunity to showcase itself to the world,” he said.
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