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The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will soon make its official decision on whether or not Breaking will be added to the Olympic Games Paris 2024.
As the World DanceSport Federation (WDSF) looks ahead to Breaking’s future, we also thought it would be a good time to reflect on the past, in particular to Breaking’s Olympic debut at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Buenos Aires in 2018.
And who better to speak with on the subject than YOG gold medallist Sergei Chernyshev, aka b-boy Bumblebee?
The 20-year-old native of Voronezh, Russia reached the podium twice at the Urban Park in Buenos Aires, first after beating b-boy Martin of France in the final of the 1vs1 battles, and later when he claimed bronze with b-girl Ella of Austria in the Bonnie & Clyde event.
Bumblebee says he has many fond memories from his three weeks in Argentina, but if he had to single out one in particular, bringing home gold for his father would be at the top of the list.
Sergei Sr. was one of the first breakers in Voronezh, and his son followed in his footsteps at the age of 9 when he first started working on his moves. His parents still run a dance studio in the city.
“My father left the park after quarterfinals – he wanted me to concentrate, not be distracted by him, feel less pressure,” Bumblebee says. “We only met again after the final. So that moment meeting up is probably the most memorable. He left, he trusted me, and I didn’t disappoint.
“When I saw him, you know, it was a similar feeling to when you give someone a cool gift that you have been preparing for a long time. At the same time, I understood that we prepared everything together, and I simply completed the final part. Everything worked out.”
The Youth Olympic Games are often billed as the ultimate multi-sports event for young athletes, but they are about much more than just competing. They are also about learning important skills, connecting to other cultures and celebrating the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect.
Bumblebee certainly seemed to take all of that to heart while in Buenos Aires. Rather than fly directly home after the YOG had ended, he remained in Argentina so he could compete at a Latin American championship with his new Argentine friend, b-boy Fabez. The duo took part in the 2vs2 battles at the event and were eventually crowned champions. [Watch footage of the pair in action here.]
“I met local b-boy Fabez at the Games,” Bumblebee says. “He was there as staff and accompanied us to training, prepared a gym for us. We got along from the first meeting. He supported me a lot during the days of competition, and his support really gave me energy. I’m not sure why, he just somehow knew what was needed to say.”
The two cemented their friendship during the 2vs2 battles and remain close to this day.
“After our victory, he was invited to Europe and travelled abroad for the first time,” says Bumblebee. “He was on the road for about a year in total and even got to Russia, to Voronezh, where he stayed with us for 10 days in the summer of 2019. Then he travelled from Austria to Budapest to support me at the World Urban Games. And we still communicate to this day. He really became a good friend.”
Having won two medals at the YOG, Bumblebee quickly became the talk of the town in Buenos Aires as well as a darling of the Olympic Channel. The Channel was so impressed with his star potential that they invited him to the Olympic Capital of Lausanne, Switzerland, to work in front of the camera during the Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020. While at the winter YOG, Bumblebee met and interviewed a wide variety of people, from athletes to IOC Members, including Russian pole-vaulting queen Yelena Isinbaeva.
A video of Bumblebee even went viral during the YOG, helping him receive mentions in such mainstream media outlets as Sports Illustrated and The New York Times.
Like a number of his peers from the YOG, Bumblebee saw his schedule become busier and busier following Buenos Aires.
“Life has changed. It has become more intense. I travel more often, work, and train hard,” he says, adding that Breaking itself has also been evolving.
“Breaking …. now also has a sporting path. Many people, in fact, worried in vain that sports would eat up the cultural component of the art form but everything remains, everything works harmoniously together,” he says. “The prize money has grown, the budgets of the festivals have grown. In general, the demand for Breaking is growing, so the dancers have more commercial opportunities as well.
“For me, I try to find a balance in all this: in sports, and in what came before it. And I can tell you that it works. So there have been changes both for me and for the whole direction, and more of them will happen closer to 2024, when Breaking becomes even more popular.”
The Executive Board of the IOC is set to make its final decision on whether to include Breaking (along with Skateboarding, Sport Climbing and Surfing) on the sports programme for Paris 2024 at its next meeting on 9-10 December.
Bumblebee is confident Breaking will make the grade next month and considers it to be a “cool” development. But of more immediate concern is simply to get back into competition after a year of postponements and cancellations. While online battles have sustained Breaking’s momentum during the pandemic, Bumblebee admits to not being a fan of the virtual format.
“In the summer we had a couple of real – not online but offline – battles in Russia, one of which was the Yalta Summer Jam (where I came in second),” he says. “They were breaths of fresh air. And in September and October we also had the Russian Championship and the Open Breaking Championship.”
But for the time being his calendar is fairly empty for the rest of the year, a development he accepts quite pragmatically. In fact, it seems that Bumblebee has adopted a when-life-gives-you-lemons-make-lemonade approach to all the downtime, taking the time, for example, to learn to drive, obtain his driver’s license and study English.
“The whole world has stopped,” Bumblebee says. “But in terms of Breaking, I actually see a plus in this. We need to pause sometimes so that we can stop and rethink everything. This is useful. After pauses, development accelerates. So I took the lockdown fine. I had the opportunity to train, I went to my parents' studio alone and did it. This training also had a beneficial effect on me.”